What are the skills needed to survive the end of the world? Knowing how to make a good martini? Folding napkins? Doing magic tricks? Or maybe it would be more useful to know how to skin a rabbit, make a gas mask, or fashion a blow dart? I failed miserably at the latter during this game but unfocussed evening that comes courtesy of Nigel Barrett, Louise Mari and Abigail Conway as part of the Manchester international festival. It’s a night out in which Armageddon meets Blue Peter.
Entering an abandoned building, the audience is directed to an upper floor where we can make and consume martinis and are offered tips on how to engage with other guests. Not that it’s ever likely to happen given the blistering noise levels and setup. This is probably one of those theatrical adventures best enjoyed in a group and after several drinks. Post-gin it’s downstairs where we practise stitching skills with orange peel and needles in an exercise to condition the mind for survival, and watch people standing on gangways above our heads performing helicopter signal actions with dedicated vim.
Then we are free to wander, taking in the various demonstrations. I passed on the lava lamp workshop, but now know how to tie a knot and make pepper spray. Apparently, the addition of baby oil is crucial. Clearly when the apocalypse does arrive there will be ample stocks of wet wipes and sticky tape to hand. The roar of planes and explosions overhead becomes louder until we are hurried down into the basement where a band plays before the party at the end of the world begins for the survivors.
I suspect this might have been a different, harder-hitting and more layered and visually arresting show before it was overtaken by current news events including the attack at the Manchester Arena. It’s a big ask to make this particular show at this particular time without courting accusations of bad taste. But in the effort to avoid offending, the evening ends up veering towards the bland and purposeless. It’s a pleasant enough theatrical party game but one without the genuine fear-inducing urgency that should make us contemplate the ephemerality of our existence and remind how living and surviving are never the same.