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Top Story, Old Vic Tunnels

Sebastian Michael
Directed by Adam Berzsenyi Bellaagh
★★

Pros: A cast of talented actors deliver strong, impressive performances.

Cons: The script drags for the most part and a lot of the scenes don’t serve the storyline.

Our Verdict: The 2012 apocalypse idea has been overdone at this stage and although a terrific collection of performers do their best to breathe life into this play, sadly it just doesn’t work.

Courtesy of Foteini Christofilopoulou

Situated beneath Waterloo Station, the Old Vic Tunnels is a vibrant arts venue known for its interesting exhibitions, installations and performances. The dark, dank caverns make for an atmospheric experience with some beautiful art work scattered about. I particularly like the sparse, antique furniture which adds to the Victorian underbelly aesthetic. Since 2009, the tunnels have been home to lots of pop-up art events and it is fast becoming one of the most prized venues on the London fringe.

Top Story is a tale of two friends, Gus and Talfryn, who hang out together as a giant meteor makes its merry way towards the earth. The show’s tagline ‘Godot meets Rosencrantz & Guildenstern for the Facebook generation’ is accurate in the sense that these two young men are waiting for something which may or may not arrive. Also, much like Waiting for Godot, they pass their time by sleeping, eating, conversing and playing games. However, for me, these two characters seemed less like the Waiting for Godot pair and more like Men Behaving Badly with their penchant for boozing and telly. Their conversation too is often lacking in maturity or any real depth. The more philosophical, scientific discussions are left to two celestial beings, Alphron and Raoul, who are expertly played by Stephen Schreiber and James Messer. Young Raoul is sweetness personified while Alphron is older and brimming with wisdom. Both are believable as all-seeing angels and I enjoyed their gentle interaction.

The strongest element of this show is certainly the actors and there are no weak links across the performances. Despite the fact that I didn’t particularly like the two central characters, both Ed Pinker and Lewis Goody are excellent in their portrayals and I fully believed in their friendship. Sadly, their dialogue contained too much filler and my interest waned far more than I was engaged. The supporting cast of news reporters, TV personalities and experts all appeared completely real and, with the exception of one unconvincing Irish accent, the performances were great.

I am an avid reader of science fiction so I really should have loved this show but, sadly, I just couldn’t get into it. A lot of the scenes are unnecessary to the story and seemed a little pointless. This issue also contributed to the show feeling far too long overall. On another note, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d accidentally wandered into a boys’ club as the only visible female in the show is a leggy, vacant blonde who reports on the meteor. Almost all of the men are sexually obsessed with her and, sadly, she doesn’t seem to serve any other real purpose. I admired Josephine Kime for portraying this bland character so brilliantly and with such terrific humour too. Kime is clearly an intelligent comedic actor and, despite her vacuous ‘hot girl’ role, she manages to steal the show – for all the right reasons.

My last point is a niggly one. I mean no disrespect to the writer when I say this but I feel it worth mentioning; there is a moment early on in the show when one of the characters says that there is ‘a meteor the size of LA which is about to hit LA, ironically’. Now, I know this isn’t a big deal and I don’t mean to sound pedantic here but I don’t see where the irony belongs in this situation. I thought maybe it was the character who misunderstood the concept of irony which would have been fine but the mistake is also in the first line of the flyer.

Overall, despite decent performances Top Story didn’t do it for me I’m afraid. Don’t fret though: you’ll find a better excuse to visit the wonderful tunnels very soon!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Top Story runs at the Old Vic Tunnels until 2nd February 2013.
Box Office: 0844 871 7628 or book online at

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