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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Friday, October 07, 2011

Apocalypse: A Glamorously Ugly Cabaret, theatre review

Published in the Guardian
Tron, Glasgow
Three Stars 

IT'S the end of the world as we know it and Catherine Gillard and Nancy Walsh feel fine. The two actors are washed up on a tiny cabaret stage for one last vaudeville turn before the apocalypse. Their makeup is smeared and the showbiz sheen has been knocked off their padded costumes, but they have songs and sketches and every chance of being sent to a better place when the Grim Reaper arrives. They're determined to go out smiling.

This is the scenario for the debut production by Occasional Cabaret, collaborating here with New York writer John Clancy, who has a penchant for actor-centred drama with a fierce political bent. His starting point is the religious zealots who treat every earthquake, plague and economic blip as evidence of our impending fate and use arcane biblical scholarship to calculate the date of the apocalypse (27 May next year, apparently). Clancy throws this thinking back in the faces of the prophets of doom by questioning the lifestyles of those who claim to lead an ethical life.

In between musical numbers laced with the darkest of black humour, Gillard and Walsh take turns to quiz each other as if completing a questionnaire at the gates of heaven. Is it really enough to recycle your cans, join the odd antiwar march and make an annual donation to charity when the global median income is $2,000, millions have no roof over their heads, and various ills - from racism to terrorism - continue unabated?

As satire, it's not subtle, but it is pointed, and Clancy punches it home with a vicious wit. What Peter Clerke's production lacks, though, is the subversive sassiness of cabaret. Despite all the direct addresses, Gillard and Walsh look frightened by the audience, and their performances, although good-natured, lack the slickness of the seasoned burlesque star.

© Mark Fisher 2011
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