As musical theatre goes, this is a peculiar voyage that takes a bit of getting into. At first the characters seem overly silly and the humour fairly immature, but as the show progresses we acclimatise to the style of the piece like we acclimatise body temperature during a swim in the cold sea – by the end we don’t want to leave it.
Side stepping cliches and obvious plot lines or jokes, this is actually a very original piece of work. Often it’s the score that suffers with new musicals, but not so here as we find ourselves singing along to the catchy tunes. It’s well designed – the music needs to be pretty accessible, for the story, script and lyrics are surreal and the addition of anything too discordant or strange musically, would be just too alienating for the audience. The set is simple, but lighting and props help us to imagine we’re adrift on the ocean and create an atmosphere that ranges from fiesta to disaster.
The story follows passengers and crew aboard a cruise ship headed for an apocalyptic storm and there’s some really very good performances to be seen. The crazed Captain is played to perfection as credible, yet utterly strange and offbeat, with a wonderfully creative assortment of mannerisms and quirks (and a great singing voice to boot). Although purposely daft, it’s subtle yet effective, a remarkable piece of acting and the show is worth catching if only for this alone. Also notably well played, is the hapless cruise rep Hanks, with a pseudo Australian accent enabling a great deal of sound-alike play on words and a song where he describes falling in love with a traveling nun’s “six inches of face”. He does have the benefit of some of the best lines in the show, but it’s also the way he’s played, with warmth, funny physicality and attention to detail, that makes him a joy to watch.
Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair is unusual, bizarre and refreshing. It may be an acquired taste, but is a strong piece of new writing that looks set to have an equally strong future.