Fringe Fest: Fallout leaves a mark

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“Who would you bring to the end of the world?” and “What’s with the grapefruits?” aren’t questions you’d normally hear together, or questions you’d hear at all. But Markus Spodzieja and Jenson Kerr are hoping they’re the kind of questions that’ll draw you to Fallout, which opened Friday, Aug. 28 as part of the 2015 Victoria Fringe Festival.

Fallout features two roommates, Nate (Spodzieja) and Al (Kerr), navigating their relationship once the world has ended. Oh, and Al has amnesia and doesn’t remember his own name.

Opening night pulled about a hundred people. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M. played as the audience strolled in. On the stage sat a couch, table, vinyl chairs from your grandmother’s kitchen, a blackboard, and flats of canned fruit.

Spodzieja and Kerr, roommates in real life, self-directed and rehearsed Fallout in their apartment. Both 2015 graduates from UVic’s theatre program, they’re no strangers to Fringe — they acted together in last year’s The Rise of Basement Boy, co-written and created by Spodzieja and Shane Campbell, a UVic writing grad who also scripted Fallout. The experience made excellent preparation for this year, but the two shows couldn’t be more different; The Rise of Basement Boy is a “nerd musical,” while Fallout has a darker side.

Extreme emotions bubble to the surface as Al tries to recover his memory, trapped in the apartment. At first, a clueless character seems contrived — the audience learns the world has ended because Nate explains it to Al — but it stops feeling clunky as Al’s struggle becomes a tool to explore power. Nate has “all the answers,” but Al ties him to a chair and the tables are turned. There are several instances of physical violence which seem unnecessary at times — perhaps tension could be expressed more subtly.

Fallout isn’t without levity. One of the funniest moments comes when Nate pragmatically stabs a grapefruit to show what happened to Al’s memory, and juice squirts across the stage. A happy face is drawn on the blackboard, then sponged off, and the water drips to look like tears — a striking image.

Kerr and Spodzieja inhabit their characters well. Nate drapes himself languidly on the couch in cargo shorts, socks and sandals, a knit vest, pendant and gold-rimmed glasses, while Al paces, wearing a simple t-shirt and jeans. These differences imply character, but require no explanation. What this show does really well is let the audience think for themselves.

By the end (which I won’t spoil — you have to go see the show!) the audience can infer that despite Al’s memory loss, Nate is really the helpless one. The show concludes with a satisfying twist open to interpretation and heartfelt yet heart-breaking moments between Nate and Al. I left reflecting on how friendship influences identity, and, concurrent with Fallout’s metaphor of apocalypse, how an ending can provoke crisis.

It was the first show I attended this Fringe, so I’m not sure, but Fallout could be a gem for those seeking more robust theatre rather than the common comedy and clowning (not that there’s anything wrong with comedy or clowning). Kerr jokingly referred to Fallout as a “summer bummer,” but he thinks there’s a need and a place for drama in Fringe Festivals. Don’t let the image of a nuclear explosion on Fallout’s poster deter you.

Fallout plays at the Roxy Theatre (Fringe Venue 8) tonight, and Sept. 5 and 6. Tickets are $11 at the door or $12 at http://victoriafringe.com.

Editor’s note: This article previously stated that a clueless character was “convenient,” and that it started feeling clunky afterwards. The author meant to say that it was contrived, but stopped feeling clunky as the play proceeded. We have updated the review to reflect this.

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