Armageddapocalypse: Threat Level Dead

Thu 16th – Mon 27th August 2012

reviews

Laura Peatman

at 03:08 on 22nd Aug 2012

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The latest offering from the team behind ‘Armageddapocalpyse’ is mad, riotous, nonsensical and very, very funny. Once again following the escapades of the ultimate maverick agent, Jack Lang (James Moran), the show comprises more ludicrously-accented villains than a James Bond movie, more twists than a ride at Alton Towers, and more pointless deaths than a series of ‘Midsomer Murders’. Yet somehow this all combines into an evening of pure hilarity.

When things kicked off in a noisy burst of ‘Previously…’ flashbacks, I was initially unconvinced; it was loud and brash but didn’t automatically elicit many laughs from this reviewer, not helped by the fact that – due to the set-up of the venue – I couldn’t actually see what was happening when a couple of characters lay on the stage floor. Yet I was gradually won around by this group of former Cambridge students. If you’re not already on their wavelength, it takes a while to tap into their sense of humour and style: I felt that a lot of jokes were written firstly to make themselves and each other laugh, rather than for the benefit of a wider audience. However, once you accept the madness and get into the groove of this humour, the laughs keep on coming.

Without exception, the cast possess a manic kind of energy which ensures they throw themselves into every role with boundless enthusiasm and a universal tendency to overact – and that is not meant as a criticism. The spoofing of pretty much every action movie scene you’ll ever come across needs this exaggerated style to succeed, and the send-up of the “maverick” agent, frustrated boss, Russian villain and tragically sacrificed family member are all hilarious. The ubiquitously multi-talented Mark Fiddaman in particular switches from role to role with ease, whether portraying an evil henchman, a ‘guru master’ or an innocent kidnap victim: the latter in particular had the whole room in constant fits of giggles, as did his swift response to a latecomer in the audience.

There are occasional weak moments – the extended death of one of Alastair Robert’s characters didn’t make me laugh as much as it should have – but in general the show only gathers momentum as it proceeds. What entertained me the most were the more understated moments of ‘normality’ (well, nothing is entirely normal here…) which cut through the brashness: two guards’ discussion of their uncomfortable new jumpsuits was a flash of brilliance, while Moran’s bemused expressions after Fiddaman’s capture of the evil Volkov (the irrepressible Lucien Young) were a joy to behold. The mask of professionalism occasionally slipped as the cast at times nearly burst into laughter themselves, but they fought the impulse valiantly, desperately trying to erase the telling smirks from their faces: yet rather than detracting from the performance, this simply brought another element of fun to the show, demonstrating that they were enjoying themselves as much as the audience.

On paper, this production sounds rather farcical (and not in a good way): in practice, it is witty, mad and hilarious – not too taxing on the brain, Exploding Fist Productions produce a riotous evening of fun.

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Steve Hartill

at 09:28 on 22nd Aug 2012

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"Armageddapocalypse" is a comedy that relentlessly pokes fun at action movies and all their silly characteristics. From the collective mind of Exploding Fist Productions, the plot follows the adventures of Jack Lang (James Moran), “the most renegadiest agent” in the CIA, as he desperately seeks a way to save the world from impending doom - a doom rushing towards us in the form of Dragomir Volkov. Along the way, Jack encounters all the action movie clichés, such as a secret society being revealed, a planning montage to music, and frequent flashbacks.

Within this plot is some of the silliest and most enjoyable writing I have seen at the Fringe. The script contains a barrage of one-liners, “Looks like Volkov and I have some GUNfinished business”, which mock the nonsensical nature of action movies. The superlative dialogue of the show is also fantastic, and there are a number of moments where the characters break their own wall with ludicrous lines. Jack Lang meets his old friend, Harris (Mark Fiddaman) and says “remember all those formative experiences we’ve had?” Though the writing is sometimes immature, such as the “kicking in the balls” weakness, it also abounds with references, as any good action movie parody should. However, some of the jokes are repeated a few too many times, which is a shame.

The acting is excellent, although there are moments where the actors begin to laugh on stage,a distraction I find surprising from such experienced performers. The cast are able to swap from role to role with impressive ease, and particular mention should be made of Alastair Roberts for this strength. This show also features the most impressive use stage space I’ve seen so far, with a screen at the back having a movie style introduction projected on to it, and an extensive use of sound effects and voiceovers that add a significant amount to the piece. Another aspect to mention is the extensive prop work, which I personally enjoy, including a variety of prop guns. All in all, Armaggedopocalypse is an excellent show, despite a difficult name, and well worth a watch with such a talented cast.

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