Tamagotchi Reset and Other Doomsdays: Apocalyptic LOLs

Nerida Dickinson

With the end nigh, is it more important to take action to save the world or to create happiness for those around us?

Where theatre company Ten Tonne Sparrow’s first show, The Epic, was about creation myths, their new show forms a counter-response. The premise of Tamagotchi Reset and Other Doomsdays isn’t whether a catastrophe is imminent — that’s taken as a given — but the ethical ramifications about what to do while the world burns. Writers-cum-characters Scott Sandwich (sound artist and theatre-maker Tom Hogan’s stage name) and playwright Finn O’Branagáin take us on a tour-de-force through the doomsday myths of previous generations, from the fall of the Mayan empire to the nuclear bomb fears of the Cold War era. Eschewing a conventional narrative arc for an extended storytelling debate, Scott and Finn present their thoughts in a series of abruptly contrasting, thought-provoking and entertaining vignettes.

Introducing themselves as Scott and Finn respectively, Izzy McDonald and Paul Grabovac argue each position in a stream of energetic lectures, bringing a personal dimension to leaven the strongly researched and fact-rich material. It’s an inherently self-reflexive and self-referential production: the actors refer to director Joe Lui, introduce their own characters and establish an engaging ‘odd couple’ rapport that binds the production, with the gender swap emphasising the viewpoint and approach rather than the individual. Scott celebrates the achievements of humanity and the ongoing potential for creating happiness, while Finn succumbs to existential melancholy. They namecheck all manner of Judgement Days in a grab-bag mix: IBM engineers visiting a Tibetan mountaintop to assist a group of Lamas to hasten the end of the universe, the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, and the death of teenaged Finn’s counterfeit Tamagotchi rat as Y2K hits during New Year’s Eve parties in Darwin. The unprepossessing yet demanding digital pet was hatched, fed, cleaned and played with, and Finn had reached a new month-long record of survival for this incarnation, when the keychain-sized electronic toy found itself unable to cope with the calendar demands of 2000. The recently relaunched Tamagotchi device is far more sophisticated, and Scott’s kind gift to Finn of the new and improved model informs designer Sara Chirichilli’s animated backdrop to the presentations, the cute pixel display responding to each apocalyptic scenario.

Paul Grabovac and Izzy McDonald, photo courtesy of EClaire Photography

Tales escalate at a slick pace as Scott and Finn broach the limits of their power as individuals to arrest environmental and societal collapse. McDonald shares Scott’s wonder at NASA’s Golden Record Voyager and its lonely arc through space; Grabovac rants Finn’s despair at the cycle of worry created though the ethical implications of every choice we make. Their mutual frustration with the other’s perspective grows. A detour to ancient Egypt brings a flurry of terror as benevolent Hathor turns into raging Sekhmet; we learn that what we love can destroy us and redemption is available in the form of beer as Finn and Scott follow the ancient rite to placate the enraged god of the Nile. Paul presents Finn’s deeply mournful elegy to the Bramble Cay melomys, a cute but isolated rodent from a small island on the Great Barrier Reef, using a fishbowl, ice, blowtorch and stuffed toy to evocatively demonstrate the first recorded mammalian extinction from anthropogenic climate change, contrasting with Scott’s playfulness in a roaring tribute to dinosaur existence.

Chirichilli’s brightly coloured, geometrically-styled set features versatile storage solutions from which illustrative props spring. Finn reflects on the escalating cycle of deforestation, competitive head carving and eventual starvation and slavery that led to the Polynesian island of Rapa Nui’s ecological and social collapse, whimsically expressing it all with a tray of Easter confectionery. Scott declaims the mythos of Cthulu, replete with old-timey dramatic foreboding. Scott’s beanies figure prominently and are emblematic of the playful costume design, incorporating Cthulu, alien Carl Sagan and triceratops among other elements of the apocalyptic case studies.

Tamagotchi Reset and Other Doomsdays evokes late 90s nostalgia, entertains through the didactic content and the contrasting of Finn’s earnest activism and Scott’s light-hearted compassion, using humour to offset the sudden and strident bursts of information. Scott and Finn declare their production a modern day version of an Easter Island monumental stone head, and despite the impending doom, we’re brought to a surprisingly upbeat ending that acknowledges the problems in this time and place, inspiring us to pursue our own hearts in the meantime.


The Blue Room Theatre & Ten Tonne Sparrow, Tamagotchi Reset and Other Doomsdays, director, dramaturg, lighting designer Joe Lui, writer, producer Finn O’Branagáin, writer Scott Sandwich, performers Izzy McDonald, Paul Grabovac, assistant director Michelle Aitken, designer Sara Chirichilli, sound designer, composer Tom Hogan, stage manager Sean Guastavino, The Blue Room Theatre, Perth, 20 June-8 July

Top image credit: Izzy McDonald plays Scott Sandwich in Tamagotchi Reset and Other Doomsdays, photo courtesy of EClaire Photography

18 July 2017