Boom at Theatre 503
Theatre 503’s Boom arrives with a thud in Battersea, a swirling mess of ideas undercooked and lost in translation. This single-setting, post-apocalyptic black comedy plays like a lighthearted Black Mirror episode stretched to feature length – without any of the wit or invention that that comparison warrants.
Jules (Will Merrick) is a marine biologist convinced an impending comet has doomed planet Earth. Jo (Nicole Sawyerr) responds to his online ad, offering “sex to change the course of the world”, failing to understand the very literal meaning of Jules’s offer. While trapped in his bunker, the pair bicker about food, the fate of the planet, and the chemistry they so sorely lack. Meanwhile, our narrator (Mandi Symonds), a Wizard of Oz-like figure pulling the levers and stage lights, frames their bunker-set, pseudo-love story as the origin story for humanity’s second coming.
It’s a weighty premise, one that requires game performances and a deft touch from Merrick, Symonds and Sawyerr. Amid the technicolour palette of the appropriately kooky set, they attempt to find some comic rhythm, but a distinct lack of chemistry between the leads means this is never quite found. This is largely owing to the character of Jo – bigoted, abrasive and foul-mouthed – she is a one-note figure who is entirely unpleasant to be around. Merrick and Symonds are not offered much more to chew on, though their deliriously upbeat personas are at least more entertaining and engaging. This is perhaps in part due to their extensive stage experience; Sawyerr is a likeable performer, but it is clear she is less comfortable than the other two.
It’s clear what Boom wants to be – a satire, borderline farce, on our obsession with doomsday, online dating, and more. At lining up so many targets, it fails to hit any of them. How Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s script landed so many plaudits on its release is baffling, and this production shows that it has aged swiftly since its debut. One to skip.
Photo: Lidia Crisafulli
Boom is at Theatre 503 from 2nd until 26th August 2017. For further information or to book visit here.