Above the Arts Theatre 25 – 29 October. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Beach Comet have struck gold again with their new comedy B-musical Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair. A more polished production than Vampire Hospital Waiting Room, this Edinburgh transfer is jam packed full of laughs and lunacy.
Captain Bleufonde, obsessed with resurrecting his drowned lover, steers his cruise ship (on its 666th voyage) towards an apocalyptic storm as three tales of unrequited love play out on board. There’s Auld Mann, who’s loved Vera since they were children together, but must watch her flirt with every male with a pulse; Hanks Leeroys, the cruise director, who falls in love with nun Evie (or rather the 6 inches of her face visible), breaking one of the 10 cruising commandments; and first mate Fittles, mooning after the captain for 25 years. Basically, Carry on Cruising meets Speed… on speed.
The show begins with a flashback to Mandy’s death, with Joe McArdle (Bleufonde) and Will Hearle (Fittles) playing the scene like a twisted version of Brief Encounter, all ridiculous cut glass accents and mid distance stares. McArdle excels again in his patented raving loon persona, switching from speaking in tongues to calm reason in a howl inducing moment. His scenes with the bizarrely brilliant Hearle are painfully funny. Craig Methven as Hanks squeezes more laughs than you’d think possible out of his character’s cod Kiwi accent, and his sweet relationship with Evie (Imogen Brabant, shining in the least showy role) gives the musical its emotional centre. Steve Duffy and Rosalind Ford – with makeup that looks like someone attacked them with a Sharpie whilst they were sleeping – steal every scene as geriatric cruisers Auld Mann and Vera. Ford channels Julie Walters to provide some cringe inducing flirting with Hanks and I could watch Duffy’s old man shuffle all night.
With catchy songs by Theo McCabe and Steve Duffy, played by McCabe, Finlay Johnston and Ed Bernez, and funny choreography, the musical elements of the show are as strong as the comedy. At only 60 minutes, but with twice the laughs of much longer shows Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair is perfect escapism for a cold Autumn evening – sublime silliness.