Paul (Paul Thirkell) and Rob (Finlay Bain) live in a well-equipped apartment, with electricity, hot water, and even ice. Paul may have furnished it to look like a jungle, but they seem to lead a fairly laid-back life. The catch: this is Scotland, post-zombie apocalypse. But they remain resolute about “living a little”, because what is the point of surviving at all if you can’t enjoy it?
Bain’s play is a witty take on what should be a fairly tired genre. When newcomer Penelope (Pearl Appleby) arrives in the apartment, samurai sword at the ready in case Paul has been bitten, we are introduced through their interactions with her to their philosophy. The play becomes a party, with alcohol and drug-fuelled set-pieces which encourage the audience too, to “live a little”. But there is a serious message behind all this hedonism. From the comfort of his safe-house, Rob questions the point of rationing and living sensibly, when you could get bitten at any moment. Such a sentiment might apply to any of our zombie-free lives.
All the actors gave memorable performances. Bain’s comic timing gave a subtle softness and likeability to Rob’s macho front, while Abbleby’s Penelope was every inch the hardened survivor; she has been a victim, witness and perpetrator of atrocities, and yet she is completely disarmed by the surreal calm she finds in the flat. Abbleby handled this shift in a way that was entirely believable – we were with her when she decided to take the ecstasy offered by Rob. Thirkell’s Paul was a less subtle character than the others, and did feel at times like a caricature of camp. However, his performance in the closing scene, which drew heavily on the seemingly strange yet totally functional relationship between Rob and Paul, was really quite moving.
Jordan Murphy directed confidently, though the comic sections did feel more developed and polished than the more thoughtful moments. In general, I think this play suffered from not knowing quite what it wanted to be. It wasn’t a side-splitting Shaun of the Dead, and it also didn’t delve deep enough into exactly what fears the zombie apocalypse trope plays upon. It contained Penelope’s narration of what she had witnessed in the outside world, but this didn’t quite have the harrowing effect that was maybe intended, since it felt little cliched. It is difficult to revise this genre in a way that is meaningful. Theatre perhaps echoes the safe-house space, as it allows us to forget the outside world and be entertained, thus reinforcing the sense of life having value aside from just survival. Despite some strong performances, this play needed to pack a little more punch in order to really match its title, and have us “living a little.”