APOCKA-WOCKA-LOCKALYPSE: Adventures in the Deadlands!! - Meraki Arts Bar (NSW)
Written and Directed by Richard Hilliar
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
Meraki Arts Bar, Darlinghurst Until April 1st, 2023
- A charged lesson in art imitating life, you will laugh and probably cry, but at least your four furry friends will be there with you -
Playschool and Sesame Street meet Richard Hilliar’s absurdly written, irreverently funny and provocative piece of theatre APOCKA-WOCKA-LOCKALYPSE: Adventures in the Deadlands!!
In what is most certainly an entertaining, catastrophic and surprisingly heartfelt 90-minutes, Hilliar directs a superb ensemble of five human actors and four colourfully wonderful puppets. Set in the not-too distant future in an area called the Deadlands (formerly known as Parramatta), Nicole Wineberg’s Miss Melissa survives the apocalypse in what could easily be a dilapidated set of Playschool at ABC Studios. Joining her (or held captive by her?) is Matt Abotomey’s Glorbo, Lib Campbell’s Titzi, Zoe Crawford’s Blurkina and Nathan Porteus’ Shnerk, each with their own unique, and perfectly portrayed, sense of characterisation.
Ash Bell’s production design of rolling green hills, brightly painted yellow suns that ooze bile and sewage from the decaying vents is our first hint that not all is well in Miss Melissa’s “Haven”. Alexander Lee-Rekers’ sound design creates the unnervingly sweet atmosphere of this haven in the apocalypse, which first attempts to remove our minds from the clear destruction that has occurred around our misfits. The sound accurately works to evoke each emotion clearly, be it sickly sweet rhymes, or chaotically terrifying revelations. Isobel Morrissey works to blast light into the space, illuminate emotions through luminescent states, or throw us into total darkness at a moment's notice.
Images by Clare Hawley
Hilliar’s work feels terrifically fine tuned, incorporating puppetry seamlessly into the piece to allow it to develop its absurdity, whilst still serving political statements on a furry platter. The journey on which we are taking is, to use a cliche, like a rollercoaster as we discover the secrets of Haven as our colourful friends do.
With each cast member professionally working their puppets as an extension of their performance, their eyes are never taken off their counterparts; we are effectively persuaded to do the same. Abotomey’s Glorbo provides a surreal amount of heart throughout, while Porteus’ Shnerk acts as our detective, discovering each hidden secret in the bunker. Crawford’s Blurkina is a driving force amongst the monsters opposite Campbell’s high pitched and energetic Titzi. Each puppet is imbued with personality thanks to the performer’s absolute commitment to the piece. Eventually, you catch yourself actually caring deeply for their plight!
Throughout all of the genuine laughs and lessons taught, there lies a deep psychosis at the bottom of this piece.
Audience interaction along the way starts playful, with paper hidden under your seat as you make a fan with Miss Melissa. This soon develops to being essential to the plot, whilst sometimes awkwardly being pleaded from the cast to continue the story along. Nonetheless, that sense of play and fun is clearly felt by everyone as their faces are recognisable of those early childhood days gone by.
Art imitates life in this production that will make you laugh deeply before reminding you of the enormity of the road ahead. Throughout all of the genuine laughs and lessons taught, there lies a deep psychosis at the bottom of this piece. The paranoia of our times emanates through; maybe we won’t survive the climate wars, but despite this, we have to keep on going, no matter the cost. If only we all had a furry puppet friend to keep that tiny bit of innocence amongst all the madness.
Strictly 18+. The theatre is on level three of Meraki and is only accessible via two flights of stairs. Written and directed by: Richard Hilliar
Featuring: Matt Abotomey, Lib Campbell, Zoe Crawford, Nathan Porteus and Nicole Wineberg
Production Design: Ash Bell
Sound Design/Composition: Alexander Lee-Rekers Lighting Design: Isobel Morrissey Stage Management: Alex Liang
This show would not be possible without the support of Innerwest Council, through its EDGE Spaces program. #EDGEInnerwest - Supporting Artists Locally to Globally