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Edinburgh Fringe 2012

Picnic Apocalytpic

Babolin Theatre

Genre: Physical Theatre


Bedlam Theatre


Low Down

"An apocalyptic picnic from the creators of Larry", Babolin return with their ensemble look at a journey into a personal hell reflected in us all.


Welcome to the Apocalypse. An ensemble of twelve, including a live pianist, greet us, especially Wormwood and Mammon. Welcome to the underworld and a tale os hell, of both personal and biblical proportations. laced with dark comedy, visual humour and moments of pain and understanding, Babolin weave a story thaty bursts that the seems with ideas and action, music and metaphor.

This particular apocalypse is an event a la garden fete-style picnic. Then we venture in, and down, down and down. This is a production that bases itself around music, story and plenty of symbolism. A cast of over a dozen are dressed for the hellish occasion and there’s plenty of bathos in these pot bellied demons.

It’s a pity that microphones are used. Babolin are a physical theatre company and these performers verily eat the microphones, over-oomphing the clarity and putting up an unnecessary hurdle to our connecting.

This show explores the themes of the apocalypse, and iof personal stuckness and moving on.  Babolin continue to combine surreal physical comedy, ensemble music with storytelling. Some of the music is delivered with a chilling and impressive togetherness. Not all of the voices are as strong as each other, but there’s synergy aplenty.

As a musical ensemble they are strong, some of the comedy asides are wacky and beautifully timed, but there’s a feeling of astral rambling in places. It’s a show that overflows with theatrical stuff, but it’s mostly delightful and engaging.

It’s too unhinged in parts but there’s also some glorious spectacle in this piece. This is the ebullient gesture that is rare in theatre. A large cast sometimes creates physical unclarity but mostly generates a kind of spiritual muscle, an impact that can generate the rare shiver of live effect.

Can Belle stave off apocalypse for humanity ? First she will have to encounter and master her own ending, her own closure.

Down through the Dante-esque levels of Hell you have to go down to get out. Belle is the archetypal  human in us all, falling lower, seeking resolution, with her own micro apocalypse to contend with. Babolin blend styles – musical, verbal, physical. One moment epic and biblical drama, one moment naturalism, one moment dark comedy, the next tender drama. It sometimes synergises beautifully. Sometimes it feels less well realised in terms of design. And who is Belle, this betrayer … ? The story of Wormwood’s birth, Belle’s own… It’s gothic in places, esoteric in others, light, naturalistic and real in yet others.

The music, the singing and the ensemble movement stand out as the strength, the unskilled shouting into a microphone is the big weakness. Lose the microphones altogether and risk the act of belly voice projection and gut-fueled storytelling. And sometimes something quieter, simpler.  Then we might be somewhere really special. As it stands there’s plenty of virtue here that still makes this so very well worth a look. Highly recommended.