Doom’s Day is play that delves into the world of “preppers”; those people that prepare for the oncoming catastrophe that will leave the rest of us desperately unprepared in the absence of our daily latte and Netflix boxsets. It also explores what you would do if the end of your world as you knew it was actually looming.
This is a production that wears its research on its sleeve. The cast explains that they have been investigating preppers, and came across their key protagonist – Joseph P Badame – whom they have been talking with for some time. There are inserts from academics and news broadcasters, real or fictitious, to tell us more about their research or events. The temptation to include all these facts in the writing of the play must be intense, but at times the show becomes a drama-documentary rather than a drama, informative and interesting without engaging in the way it could.
It’s not that the cast aren’t capable of tweaking our emotions. There are small moments that take you by surprise, where the human story comes through and you feel that little catch of emotion. There is also a fine sense of humour in there, which could be utilised more. I liked in particular how the central love story was linked to that of Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron, a very clever way to stop eyebrows raising too far – everything is more romantic in French!
The physical theatre is carried off with style, and drier subject matter such as the reporting of the economic shocks of the 1970s and America’s loss of confidence is handled with panache. Swapping the central role between different actors works well too, allowing one to tell the story in Joseph’s own words, as another acts it out. The motif of barrels, which represent the storage of the preppers’ supplies (as well as the stage furniture) works well, though there is perhaps a little too much stage business at times.
The ending is kind-of odd. Without giving too much away, I liked the concept of giving an entirely different perspective, but I’m not entirely sure that this is the right place. On the other hand, there is a risk that the piece becomes entirely worthy and right-thinking without the edge that this vignette brings.
Doom’s Day manages to stay just the right side of didactic, the playfulness and touching human elements stopping it from tipping too far over into earnestness. It is a clever take on an interesting topic that provokes thought as to how, no matter how much we plan, we can never quite be sure what we are preparing for.