Ape/Essence

Adaptation by Shawn Clerkin

Gannon University with International Collegiate Theatre Festival

theSpace @ Venue45

From 04 August 2017 to 09 August 2017

Rating: ****

Review by Graeme Strachan

Taking one of Aldous Huxley's more bizarre works and apapting it for the stage, International Collegiate Theatre Festival have set themselves no small task, as his anti-nuclear war piece is a convoluted and unusual novel.

Choosing to reframe rather than eschew the metafictional aspect of Huxley's novel, that of a film script within a story, instead we are shown the story of Dr Poole, a New Zealander scientist investigating the post-apocalyptic ruin of California, told as an almost ritualistic campfire tale.

The tellers are an almost nomadic tribe trying to gain access to a gate and presumably to some form of safety. Through the swapping of a white lab coat, they take turns to tell the story of Poole's encounter with the Belial-worshipping, largely mutated denizens of old LA as he is introduced to their ritualistic purifying celebrations and the horrifying contortions of democracy into a totalitarian state.

The players lope and whoop, while flinging themselves around the stage in energetic glee, bedecked in Mad Max-like warpaint, khaki clothes and furs, managing to milk every drop of humour out of the ridiculousness of the situation, while allowing the uncomfortable undercurrent of violence and horror to bubble just below the surface, erupting periodically.

Indeed, the tragedy of this show is that it will only appear for a mere 4 showings, each of which is at a different time of day—a state of affairs that will probably ensure it isn't seen by nearly enough Fringe patrons.