Review: Top Story at the Old Vic Tunnels
There are some obvious choices when deciding to write a comedy about the end of the world, as seen through the eyes of two young men, in a flat with enough beer to see them through the last seven days of mankind's existence. Fortunately playwright Sebastian Michael manages to avoid most of them - you won't find tears or panic or drunkenness here.
Instead,while waiting for the meteor to hit earth, the two friends, Talfryn (Ed Pinker) and Gus (Lewis Goody) do little but say and discuss much. It is both funny and philosophical; the matter of factness and ordinariness against the backdrop of panic and blame reported on the TV news is both endearing and amusing.
Gus imagines the conversation with his girlfriend if he was to invite her over while Talfryn has monosyllabic phones calls with his mum. But for the looming end of the world it would seem like an every day sit-com and is probably at its best when the friends are having their matter of fact conversations about what sort of legacy they should leave (it involves re-writing the rules of chess).
Peppered in between, Gus and Talfryn watch the news where the pre-apocalypse anarchy is starting to set in, only pretty TV presenter Chrissie Craven (Josephine Kime) stoically remains professional while on location reporters and studio guests fall apart or try to hit on her.
And then there are the two angels, the young Raoul (James Messer) and older angel Alphon (Stephen Schreiber) who discuss the even bigger issue of the universe, the existence of God and man's place in the world. The angels seem at once to emphasise the insignificant and significance of man in the grand scheme of things but while they have interesting things to say I'm not sure it would damage the narrative and overall effect not to have them there.
Otherwise it is a nicely done, well-acted play funny and interesting.
Top Story runs at the achingly atmospheric, if damp smelling, Old Vic Tunnels until Feb 2 - if you have tickets while we are experiencing this cold snap take a scarf because it can get a little chilly.
The play has its own website which you can find here with lots of production shots.
James Messer who plays angel Raoul was an understudy for the Harold Pinter run of South Downs/Browning Version in which Anna Chancellor appeared. Ms Chancellor has of course worked with Mr W in The Hour. Just for added connection and because I love recounting the story, Mr W sat behind me at the Hampstead Theatre when she was appearing in The Last of the Duchess there.