Venue: Meraki Arts Bar (Darlinghurst NSW), Mar 16 – Apr 1, 2023
Playwright: Richard Hilliar
Director: Richard Hilliar
Cast: Matt Abotomey, Lib Campbell, Zoe Crawford, Nathan Porteus, Nicole Wineberg
Images by Clare Hawley
In a bunker beneath what has become known as the Deadlands, Miss Melissa lives with four furry monsters, spending their days together as though in a children’s television programme, singing songs and telling stories. There is no audience of course, for it is the end of the world, and Miss Melissa has quite clearly lost her mind. Written and directed by Richard Hilliar, Apocka-wocka-lockalypse is as mad as its protagonist, but is thankfully a great deal more likeable.
A deeply subversive work, consistently amusing with its irreverent spirit, and its excellent sense of humour, Apocka-wocka-lockalypse satisfies beyond the laughs it so deftly delivers. The show is genuinely funny, but also provocative, determined to make bold statements about a catastrophic future, that we are in the delusory habit of ignoring. Art reveals the truth, even when it seems to spend all its time entertaining and playing the fool.
Hillier’s methodology of incorporating puppetry, allows our sensibilities to venture directly into a space of absurdity. A suspension of disbelief then occurs, along with a diminishment of defences, in order that the show may convey its difficult message, as well as trigger our imagination to participate in something altogether more outlandish and flamboyant.
Matt Abotomey, Lib Campbell, Zoe Crawford and Nathan Porteus are our enthralling puppeteers, a brilliant team of storytellers who bring extraordinary animation and passion, to the production. Inventive and cohesive, they make the experience compelling from beginning to end. Miss Melissa is played by Nicole Wineberg, who inhabits both the sweet and the terrifying qualities of her character with aplomb, in a performance that captivates most when she channels a sense of extravagance, into the eccentric tale.
Production design by Ash Bell is a whimsical take on Miss Melissa’s unnerving world, combining innocence with horror, for visual cues that are truly disarming. Lights by Isobel Morrissey are minimal, but nonetheless effective. Music by Alexander Lee-Rekers brings valuable elevation to the staging, tremendously accurate with all that it wishes to evoke in the viewer, full of humorous insight, to reveal the meanings behind the relentlessly zany darkness.
Our apocalypse can be thought of as preventable, or be regarded with a gloomy inevitability, but it seems we mostly pretend that it is not actually imminent. Indeed, we may already be in the very throes of our end times. Our boundless proficiency at being optimistic, has proven necessary in preventing us from depressive states of paralysed hopelessness, but it appears to also be the Achilles heel, that puts us in perpetual denial and that encourages us to keep repeating the same mistakes. There may be light at the end of the tunnel, but to think that we will arrive at salvation without gargantuan effort, is to sound the death knell of our species.