Many theatre companies have decided to transition their work to the digital realm in the previous year, and Mannequin Mouth is no exception. Besides the fact the experimental theatre company covers both mediums; they perform their shows not only virtually but also live on stage. And instead of streaming a recorded version of their live performance, they tap into the world of film and present something that is neither one nor the other (which makes for a pleasant surprise.)
Armageddon, Baby!, written and directed by Will Pinhey and India Howland, combines doomed dystopia with cinematography that imitates the 2000s with every fibre. Situated amidst the actors while the events unfold, the handheld camera perfectly captures the rawness and chaos of that one disturbing evening – Armageddon. The imagery is colourful, yet bleak, and the setting is a punk, run-down Victorian garden. A staircase framed by fairy lights leads to the second floor and a small gate allows the characters to come and go as they please. Bishop (Samuel Nicholls), Kipper (Macauley Keeper), Cookie (Laura Jackson), Kitty (Mima Beauchamp), Lana (India Howland), and Norton (Harvey Wright) are housemates that share the decrepit space and are captured by the central camera. Explosions and gunshots can be heard in the distance and set the scene from the very beginning.
Armageddon, Baby! is split into two acts – before and after the war between good and evil. However, the battle does not end with the first act. Facing and fighting their inner demons throughout the two-hour-long show, the characters lose themselves and their integrity. High on cocaine and ketamine, the six housemates – and additional menacing characters (Charlie Howard as Spade and Will Pinhey as Rafe) – are faced with radical ideas such as sacrifice, atonement, identity theft, and an orphaned baby (is it dead?) They enter and exit, looking for a way out or a way into the hellfire going on at their front door.
The stakes are high and so is the energy of the performers. They deliver the dialogues at a fast pace, overlapping one other, and entirely in-synch with the speed of the impending doom at their doorstep. However, following the build-up of excitement and angst, the second act disappoints a little. Staged in an eerie, white-washed bunker instead of the lively back garden, someone plays tricks on the housemates and the only person who seems to be in control of the situation is the mysterious Lana.
Armageddon, Baby! is a crazy depiction of what the end of the world could be like for the seven young adults. It is an adrenaline-filled escape into a dystopian reality where you should fear any and everyone. The cinematography of the filmed performance, as well as the detail in costume and set design (Julia Vredenberg) make for a well-rounded, drug-crazed punk Armageddon – experimental theatre at its finest.
Armageddon, Baby! is playing online from 1 September. For more information and tickets visit The Mannequin Mouth Website.