For me, A Party For The End of The World started before before rushing to BATS; while scoffing down a burrito at Sweet Mothers, a group of people sitting behind me excitedly chatted about this show, building my anticipation for what’s to come. This same excitement was palpable upon entering the performance space; Nicol enthusiastically puts up bunting made out of recycled show posters, producer of White Man Behind a Desk Finnius Teppett quietly plans for the show, and the cameraman Mitchell Botting sits silently, sternly, unfazed.
The show starts strong, with interviews with your average kiwi’s down at the Harbourside Fruit and Vegetable Market projected, with Nicol posing the question “What’s your favourite climate change joke?” Straight away, as an audience we are won over, and the absurd humour of something as depressing as inevitable demise via climate change floats to the surface and acts as a great ice breaker (pun intended). The rhythm of the show is varied as is the content - we become a live studio audience for a White Man Behind a Desk video on democracy, we receive a presentation on the facts of global warming from an “anonymous” sponsor (ahem, Greenpeace! Ahem), participate in activities and interviews onstage, and observe a live discussion with a well-known New Zealand MP. If you’ve ever wanted to see a drinking “exercise” between a politician and a comedian, then you are in the right place.
Nicol skips through the space with a flamboyant, distracted energy which ultimately thinly hides the devastation felt at the projected losses of resources, and of life in the world as a result of climate change, whereas Teppett tries in vain to manage Nicol and stick to schedule. Their stage chemistry is phenomenal and reflects two relatable sides of the same coin; being over positive and utterly distracted from a problem due to its vastness and its impact on your own mental health, and alternatively being pragmatic yet apathetic. Nicol is a hyperbole of himself, throwing his energy into engaging with anyone who will make eye contact long enough to become part of distraction.
The set was tech heavy with projectors, live filming, mics linked up for Nicol, music, coloured spotlights, and voiceover, however the transition between mediums was seamless and added immense value to an already quality show. Lucas Neal’s production design, and Oliver Devlin’s and Maxwell Apse’s musical additions were key in maintaining a fun, distracting, and ever-changing atmosphere that worked well against Teppett’s no-nonsense attitude. With multiple back to back medium changes there is room for significant error but the tech crew handled this with grace and expertise.
A “Party” For The End of The World felt like somewhat of a misnomer. The vibe was more of a semi-political/radical event where us, the audience, have been coaxed into a room by the offer of free kai in exchange for sitting through a presentation on social issues. I half-expected to see a table of lukewarm vegetarian spring rolls and samosas decking the stage. Nevertheless, despite grim content at times, we were kept in high spirits throughout the piece and surprisingly, ended on a somewhat hopeful note.
The team behind White Man Behind a Desk, and A Party For The End of The World, ultimately achieved what they set out to accomplish. The jokes were clever, pointed, and sometimes slapstick, yet it’s the facts on the impacts of rising temperatures on the coral reefs that stuck with me. An old drama teacher from high school once told us “Make them laugh. Then, when their mouth is wide open, pour in the truth.” This is an apt way to describe the impact of this piece. We feel the despair that slips through the cracks when Nicol finally breaks, and are relieved when the performers allow this to turn into a laugh, with Nicol sulking.
I was left momentarily disappointed with the final message of tepid positivity However, on reflection, I realize that I wanted someone in the show to tell me that it’ll all be okay and that this show is just a comedy. Yet this performance is much more than just an easy laugh, and the moral of this story will be sticking with me for some time - a tribute to the clever writing and performers.
A Party For The End of The World is a must see, and will be showing at BATS from 6-11 May. Tickets can be purchased here.