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Boom review at Theatre503, London – ‘imaginative comedy about the end of the world’

Will Merrick in Boom at Theatre503, London. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli Will Merrick in Boom at Theatre503, London. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli
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A big bang, a load of whimpering and the end of the world – that’s Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s play in a nutshell, making its UK debut after premiering in New York in 2008.

Spiky journalism student Jo has answered an ad for “sex to change the course of the world”, and arrives at the bunker-like residence of marine biologist Jules. Problem one: Jules is gay. Problem two: the apocalypse is imminent.

Will Merrick, known for roles in Skins and Poldark, is consummately gawky as marine biologist Jules who, through closely studying fish, has determined that the world is about to end.

He sparks brilliantly against Nicole Sawyerr as cynical Jo. Sawyerr deadpans her lines, steeping them in disdain and sarcasm, a great contrast to the buzzed-up energy of Merrick.

And then there’s Barbara. Sitting in a high chair at the side of the stage and surrounded by levers that control the lights – and life and death – she seems, at first, like some kind of godlike figure. That’s until her true purpose is revealed to be more prosaic, and more amusing.

Even though the jumpy pace deadens when Mandi Symonds cuts in as Barbara, speaking slowly and over-labouring her delivery, the play is a compact and witty piece about creation and evolution, precisely directed by Katherine Nesbitt.

Nicola Blackwell’s set is a beauty, like a miniature Pompidou Centre – industrial, metallic, daubed in vibrant colours.

There’s no shortage of Douglas Adams comparisons here: the sci-fi-meets-silliness style, the preoccupation with fish. But there’s oodles of imagination too and, for a play about the apocalypse, a fair few laughs.

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