Review by Lucy Holz
Intriguingly titled, How to be a person when the world is ending is an exploration of the apocalypse and life on earth. How will it end? What will it look like? How will we act? This show interweaves the fears that run through the minds of Gen Z on a constant rotation alongside all the things that make life worth living.
A series of dynamic vignettes strung together by the theme of impending doom, this show is just a little too relatable for comfort. Climate change, asteroid strike, another pandemic and good old-fashioned suicide are all floated as potential world-ending events for audience perusal.
Writer and performer Myfanwy Hocking spearheads the production, brandishing a vibrator and butt plug. In one skit, Hocking performs an extensive session of self-pleasure and perhaps unsurprisingly, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen an actor masturbate on stage, in fact it’s not even the first time this Melbourne Fringe season.
This scene perfectly captures the essence of this show, as it moves swiftly between devastating and farcical, grotesque and comic. The ensemble of performers handle these changes of frequency with ease, pulling off adept mime and a number of dynamic sex positions as well as a variety of accents and characters.
The hero of this piece are the poignant two handers between Meg Dunn and Sebastian Li. All too familiar for anyone who experienced a lockdown relationship, these recurring scenes ground the piece and balance out some of the more absurdist sketches. Direction by Dunn is kept simple and straightforward, allowing the script and performances to shine.
Set is contrastingly busy, with balloons, a ball pit, couches, a screen, deck chairs, a pot plant, drawers and even more balloons crowding the stage. Each scene title is displayed on the screen, with the entire transcript of some playing out for us to read. Sound by Danni A. Esposito is perfectly in sync with the text, providing a stronger sense of place than the set, despite minimalistic use.
Throughout its runtime, this show is constantly pushing ideas surrounding Gen Z and what our generation holds dear. Perhaps a little too forceful in its messaging, there is little subtext or room for audience interpretation.
Written in a very similar voice throughout, this show doesn’t provide strong characterisation, any actor could say any line and it could make sense. This plays into the omnipotence of the text but also ensures we don’t connect too strongly with any of the characters or become too emotionally invested in their lives.
Taking heavy inspiration from pop-culture, when I left the theatre my partner pondered that it may have been ‘too TikTok’ for him, which does nothing but signify Hocking’s ability to connect with her audience. It was just the perfect amount of TikTok for me.
A daring and delicious exploration of the world and how it will (maybe) end and how we should (or shouldn’t) cope, this show leaves no stone unturned in a quest for answers. How to be a person when the world is ending lives up to its tantalising title, with something for (almost) everyone.