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Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair at Above The Arts Theatre

Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair (c) David Monteith Hodge, Photographise
Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair (c) David Monteith Hodge, Photographise

For anyone who saw Beach Comet’s last nutty and hilarious offering, Vampire Hospital Waiting Room, the question was; How on earth are they going to follow that? Well now we know; with a deranged disaster B Movie/supernatural murder mystery/romantic comedy. Set on a cruise ship. What else?

Apocalypse centres on the increasingly deranged quest of the tormented Captain Bleaufont to be reunited (very physically) with his long dead love,  Mandy. The fact that he will have to sacrifice his ship and all those cruising on her to do so is an irrelevance. He doesn’t like them anyway. Meanwhile, his cruising companions, blissfully unaware of his dark plans, have their own problems: Cruise Leader Hanks Leeroys is struggling with Cruising Commandment number something or other – Do Not Fall In Love With The Guests; First Mate Fittles is struggling with a secret passion; a nun on a mission is struggling with her vows; and two elderly cruisers are struggling with their hips. What will happen to this un-merry little band, as Bleaufont sails them straight towards a deadly storm?

The script capers joyfully and irreverently from satire to spoof to Carry-On style smut, and the laughs are almost constant. There is a darkness there as well (“I suppose they are all dead now.” “No. Some of them are still drowning.”) which demonstrates a willingness to push the barriers a little, and bodes well for the group’s future.

The acting is uniformly excellent, with the entire cast wringing every last drop of comedy from their roles. Craig Methven has great fun with Hanks’ geographically ambiguous accent, veering it decidedly towards the Kiwi whenever he has to say the words Deck or Six. Roz Ford, unrecognisable under a ton of slap, almost runs away with the show as the feisty, lusty octogenarian Vera, and Will Hearle is a camp delight as Fittels. However, once again, Joe McArdle is unquestionably the star. His demented Captain Bleaufont is certainly reminiscent of Vampire Hospital’s demented Dr Bloom, but none the worse for that – it’s a very funny character. McArdle clearly thrives on melodrama – if there isn’t any to be found, he creates it – and his bitchy, brittle asides are to die for.

The unique blend of insanity, humour and bittersweet sadness gives marvellous scope for the songs, which range from yearning ballads to jazz to rollicking show numbers. The live band is excellent – how they manage to keep up with the seemingly random capers on stage is anyone’s guess. Led by the irrepressible Vera, the barn-storming Go Out With A Bang is a particular treat.

As always, Beach Comet have chosen their props with care; they look cheap, ramshackle and entirely appropriate for the style of the play. Their costumes and makeup, however, have taken a bit of an upturn; particularly in the case of the elderly couple. Nevertheless, Beach Comet have retained the quirky, bargain-basement, spontaneous ethos that makes their productions such a joy. I very much look forward to seeing whatever fresh lunacy they come up with next.

5 Stars
Review by Genni Trickett

Welcome aboard Blues Cruise journey no. 666, where the weather is glorious, the Sundeck is heaving and eternally lusty Captain Bleufonde has decided to resurrect his dead lover by sailing into an apocalyptic storm.

Meanwhile as ever-loyal First Mate Fittles tries to curb the Captain’s explosive insanity and maintain order onboard, Veteran Cruise Rep Hanks Leeroys has broken the Golden Rule by falling in love at first sight with a passenger, sister Evie Lowe – and her perilously beautiful 6×6 inch square of visible face.
Will love overcome all at the end of the world? Come hell or high water the bar will be serving.

Performances: Tue 25th – Sat 29th October at 7:30pm
Tue – Thu £12 / £10 concessions & Under 25s
Fri – Sat £14/ £12 concessions & Under 25s
Age recommendation: 12+
Duration: 1 hour (no interval)

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