Review: The Community, The Lion and Unicorn

Of all the dystopian post-apocalyptic ‘comedies’ I’ve seen in the past year, The Community has undoubtedly been the most enjoyable. Reading the show’s synopsis, you’d expect another angst-filled drama with the odd biting joke about death or the complete lack of hope for the future, with a sprinkling of a very dark examinations of human nature and a whiff of a zombie virus. The Community, however, pleasantly surprises. A nuclear war has ravaged the earth, and so the thousand-or-so left that remain all live underground and are ominously named ‘the community’ and are ruled by an ‘elected leader’, the charismatic and morally corrupt Edith (Charlotte Bloomsbury). They all have a role to play, a job to fill, until the ground above is suitable for habitation again – presumably in a few generations time.

Written by Gael van den Bossche, an extract of The Community was first shown last year at the Southwark Playhouse as part of Soggy Brass, Velvet Trumpet’s evening of short comedy plays. It was well received, and I can see why. The comedy is sharp and delivered excellently by the cast of seven, who perform like a well-oiled machine. Kim Hausley plays an exhausted Elizabeth, who is desperate to not have to have the two children all couples are required to produce to grow the population as, hilariously, she finds her partner unforgivably irritating. Christie Peto is an exasperated mother and school teacher who wants the best for the children – both her own and the ones she teaches. Ross Virgo is a young half-wit in charge of guarding the only computer left – containing all we humans now know. With most of the cast taking on two roles, The Community keeps its pace by switching scenes often, and showing us the variety of people and opinions that live beneath the surface. The sheer number of characters, easily distinguishable, add diversity to the piece.

Directed by Josh Hinds, The Community feels original, and has somehow found a way to take a concept that has been flogged to death, and injected it with pure comedy. The Community doesn’t try to take an interesting look in to the fall of society or how humanity might flounder under such an event – it is pure unapologetic comedy mostly driven by domestic problems that we experience every day – such as relationship troubles, making a mistake at work and trying to cover it up, or coming to the realisation that your life is futile and you’ll never see the light of day again. Complete with a few catchy tunes with contrasting depressing lyrics and upbeat melodies – The Community is an exciting piece of theatre that spruces up an overdone genre.

The Community played at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre until August 5 as part of the Camden Fringe