In the Last Sales Conference Of The Apocalypse the head of a struggling start-up drags his tiny team into his own escapism fantasies during a panic attack: The shame of being a university drop-out with now also a business failure on his CV enhances childhood pain, previously carefully hidden away from his colleagues. Through a labyrinth of disrupted thoughts (illustrated by top hats, dance canes, retro video games and food competitions), the quartet visits each other’s traumata, acoustically accompanied by old school musical numbers, synths and bubblegum pop. We hear of sibling rivalry, beatings and other coming-of-age horrors. Midway, an 18th century TV show is pitched. Violin play is teased but not performed. All-knowing voices from the off appear. O Christmas Tree reworded. Then, more than one office romance takes off. Scenes and their order are purposefully absurd: This could have been a series of three if not four sharp short plays but drags as a single one.
References to the love-it-or-hate-it shiny world of sales professions get lost on stage. In yet another, genuinely funny printed program by Skitzoid Production (I had kept mine from Dissociated for that reason) they shine much better. No conference at all, not even the sales rally which could have been a team meeting which could have been a video call which could have been email. But commuters between the major railway station and London’s Waterloo & City line might expect exactly this when they fit in an alternative musical evening between their desk and their train journey home. Instead of dying the death of PowerPoint, a civilisation threatening rocket is launched by accident. Note to oneself: Setting the name of your sister whose existence you have hidden and denied as a password is not a wise move when dealing with remotely operated weapons of mass destruction.
Everyone addressing the perversions of our times (like conversion therapy and domestic violence in families and relationships) should be given space to raise awareness – and Skitzoid Production do exactly this important work in its program by introducing related, caring, less prominent charities. One hopes that other more theatre companies follow their example, especially when the World Mental Health Awareness Day is only a few days away. But what instead stays in mind when leaving the Waterloo East Theatre are period-drama episode plots definitely worth a Tom Gauld comic strip, and the ambition to make your stay-at-home cactus the next Instagram sensation. And that investing in anti-glare lenses is money well-spent on your next pair of spectacles. Frankly, those few thoughts do not require fifteen songs. However, there is one standing ovation from one proud mum in the audience tonight, and that is lovely to see.
** out of 5 stars
Last Sales Conference Of The Apocalypse was written and directed by Dave Bain
Played until the end of October at London’s Waterloo East Theatre