Review: boom

3 star rating
While 'boom' is 'different' in some respects - an enigmatic start, a terrific conceptual proposition and some off-beat comedic lines - it runs out of steam in the latter stages.
'boom' at Theatre503

Image: Announcement Productions

Theatre: Theatre503

Closes here: Saturday 26 August 2017

Peter Sinn Nachtrieb

Katherine Nesbitt


Will Merrick - Jules

Nicole Sawyerr - Jo

Mandi Symonds - Barbara


Jules, a marine biologist, places a personals ad offering "sex to change the course of the world".

Jo replies and comes to Jules' lab expecting a hot night of no strings sex.

But this is no casual encounter, it has evolutionary significance and the future of the human race hangs in the balance!

What will be their fate?

What is ours?

What's with the fish tank?

And who's the woman in the corner?


Written in 2008 and premiering at the Ars Nova Theater in New York, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's comedy BOOM quickly became the most produced play in the US between 2009 - 2010 and until now, has never before been professionally staged in the UK.

ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Monday 7 August 2017
Review star rating image for 3 stars

At the end of the press performance, just as people were beginning to get up and leave, a man near the front said "Well, that was different" - in a rather loud voice so that everyone could hear.

I suspect that comment pretty-much shoehorned with the initial reaction of many others in the audience who had just watched this play, which is receiving its UK premiere at Theatre503, almost a decade after it appeared on the other side of the pond.

So how come it took so long to get here?

I'm not sure what the real reason is, but I can imagine that producers in the UK might have been put off by the very fact that it is 'different' or possibly that, taken as a whole, it has some shortcomings.

The play starts with a woman (who we later discover to be Barbara) dressed in a green uniform, who comes on-stage and bangs a drum and pulls some levers - initially, we have no idea why.

Next, we meet Will Merrick's marine biologist Jules and Nicole Sawyerr's Jo who have been brought together through an ad.

Jo thinks she's up for a night of unhinged, uncomplicated sex which she can turn into an authentic news story for her journalistic endeavours at college.

But Jules has a larger and more fundamentally important purpose in mind - like saving the human race from extinction through "intensely significant coupling".

Derided by his academic professors and others in the know about such matters, he believes a comet is about to plough into mother Earth and end all life as we know it.

So he's arranged this meeting with Jo in a disused bunker to survive the deadly blast and then produce - with the aid of the novice journalist - a new crop of humans to re-populate the blue planet.

That basic set-up is more than sufficient to provide for some keenly comedic moments, many of them with an off-beat twist as Ms Sawyerr's unsuspecting Jo has to try to get her brain round Will Merrick's naively constructed plans.

But the comedy starts to run thin, almost evaporating when the focus in the second half of the play switches to Mandi Symonds's Barbara.

That reorientation presents us with a second dimension to the story or, to be more precise, an alternative narrative - which eventually clarifies her role.

It also explains the role of the fish in a small bowl - barely visible, I suspect, for most of the audience as it is oddly located low on the stage.

Though Ms Symonds presents us with an engaging, energetic and enthusiastic personality, much of what she has to say isn't particularly humorous.

That would be perfectly satisfactory if her contribution to the story provided some additional dramatic importance, or at least another significant layer of interest, but it gets rather bogged-down, for example in her relationship with her employers, which merely makes the play feel unnecessarily stretched.

While 'boom' is 'different' in some respects - an enigmatic start, a terrific conceptual proposition and some off-beat comedic lines - it runs out of steam in the latter stages.

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