Hidden in the murky depths, we are brought into the dystopian town of Ashley Combe where we are taken on a journey to, and past, the world’s end. The inventive combination of theatre and gig blends perfectly with this futuristic story, blurring the line where you differentiate between types of live performance.
Throughout the evening we are taken on a musical journey shaped by a rough plot. We are introduced to a collection of maddening characters, including the stereotypes of crazy church lady and pop star, all to show us just a few of the people that exist as our planet Earth is destroyed. There are no twists or unexpected moments amongst it all, but there doesn’t need to be – the plot enhances the music and gives it a reason for existing. We are immersed in a capitalistic world that isn’t too distant from what we see now and the music not only reflects each character, but also feels like a rebellion to the strict conformist rules.
The five musicians on stage double as actors throughout, with their characters enhancing their musical talents. Together they envelope an audience in a simple journey with fire and drive. John Biddle’s characterisations as the doctor and granny are the most eccentric, providing the comedic points of the whole production. Dom Coyote and Milly Oldfield on vocals make for a dreamy duo with mellifluous voices; with the addition of Ted Barnes and Daisy Palmer, this band almost reach mars!
The music by Dom Coyote stands out the most: from the calming, mysterious harmonies to the heart-felt dramatic and overwhelming final song, we are kept entranced by the phenomenal music. The most notable moment, and the point at which the collaboration between theatre and concert blends perfectly, is the incredible drum solo by Daisy Palmer, representing the end of the world.
The experience as a whole feels just like the piece: a perfect, otherworldly blend of theatre and concert. To add to this, Joshua Carr cleverly transforms the underground cavern and treats us to a spectacular lighting design. At each change we are catapulted into a different setting, most noticeably the church of our hysterical elderly preacher. Alongside this we have Brett Harvey’s projection design, helping to guide us through the utilitarian future and connecting us with the last man in the world.
Songs for the End of the World is one of the most inventive and inspiring pieces of theatre that London has to offer. Don’t come expecting its purpose to make you think deeply about our world, but do expect to have an incredible time. It works in the way that a film score or a really well thought-through album does – it has a story to tell through the music. It’s rare that we see such an innovative blend of music and theatre and I really think it could go far.
Songs for the End of the World played at the Vault Festival until 21 February. For more information and tickets, see the Vault Festival website.