Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair is absurd, puerile, vulgar, and utterly, utterly brilliant.
I came out of the tiny Above the Arts theatre space with my eyes streaming, and even the muscles on the back of my head aching from having laughed almost constantly through sixty glorious minutes of surreal madness.
This is the second time that the talented team from ‘Beach Comet’ have brought one of their hit Edinburgh Fringe shows to London, the first being last November’s Vampire Hospital Waiting Room which ran to rave reviews.
If anything this show is tighter, better structured, and more satisfying though the writing still has that edgy, slightly unpredictable air of resting somewhere between N. F. Simpson and Talbot Rothwell.
The whole affair takes place, naturally enough, on a cruise ship and is a dark, though lovingly affectionate, spoof of the 1970’s disaster-movie genre mixed with a hefty dollop of The Love Boat.
Marvellously foulmouthed, cruise ship skipper Captain Bleufonde (Joe McArdle, who seems so successfully to have an alternative interior life taking place that at times you wonder if he’s about to spirit you into another play) sees the love of his life lost overboard when charming and boyishly spunky shipmate Fittles (the charming and boyish Will Hearle…who at times has only to open his mouth to have the audience in fits of laughter) just fails to save her from a watery grave…or does he?
Fast forward some time between twenty minutes and twenty years and now-barking-mad-through-grief Captain Bleufonde has hatched a plan to resurrect his paramour by skippering the floating resort – The Blues Cruise, journey 666 – to a point in the Arctic Ocean where the confluence of four apocalyptic storms presages the end of the world.
Luckily the passengers have plenty to keep them occupied in the form of energetic and lusty, though still innocent, entertainment officer Hank Leeroys (Craig Methven whose wandering antipodean accent floats further than a koala in a swimming pool, but always seems to end up on the word ‘dick’ – which is of course the place onboard ship where you sunbathe in your ‘dickchair’); Evie (Imogen Brabant) a prudish and cloistered – but apparently up for most things – nun fresh out of the convent and looking for god; The elderly ‘Auld Man’ (Steve Duffy), and the apparent love of his life…or is it his daughter…the wonderfully monikered Vera Glimrise (Rosaling Ford, who steals the show on more than one occasion, as an insatiably lustful pensioner).
Miss Ford also has the best song in what is still a strong score from Theo McCabe and Steve Duffy when she suggests to the rest of the passengers and crew exactly what they ought to be doing when the world is about to end.
The on-stage three-piece band (Theo McCabe on keyboard, Finlay Johnson on Bass, and Ed Bernez on Drums) give the show an almost constant underscore which holds the action together wonderfully, and even perform on set for the half hour prior to metaphorical curtain-up which sets the mood perfectly, and makes the show feel like a party from the get-go.
I don’t know what this talented company of writers and performers have planned next. As there’s more wit, invention, and theatricality on the tiny Above the Arts stage than in many a multi-million pound West End offering, I can only hope it’s a full-length, grown-up, completely worked-out, two act show. Go on, guys. Write it. You know you want to…