The QT

Wednesday 19 June 2024

Review: The Last Quiz Night on Earth

David Whetstone saw The Last Quiz Night on Earth at the People’s Theatre and survived long enough to report back
Maggie Childs as Kathy in Alison Carr’s The Last Quiz Night on Earth. Credit: Paul Hood

With Earth in the path of a celestial cue-ball approaching with Ronnie O’Sullivan style velocity, and the apocalypse therefore seemingly assured, what would you do?

“Rush out and buy all the toilet paper I can find,” quipped one wag on Twitter (formerly X) recently.

Having asked herself the question, Newcastle playwright Alison Carr came up not with a quip but with The Last Quiz Night on Earth.

Her play, getting its first production here by an amateur company, imagines an oblivion-defying pub night where ‘last orders’ could come any time and with devastating finality.

And why shouldn’t it be a quiz night?

As good a place as any for a last night before Armageddon. Credit: Paul Hood

With nothing to be done to avert disaster, anguishing over the flags of various nations or the name of a TV character seems as meaningfully meaningless as anything else.

And it’s got to be more enjoyable than jumping in your car and panic driving on a road to nowhere, as it seems lots of people ‘out there’ have opted to do.

‘In here’, in the cosy ‘local’ infused with the welcoming warmth of landlady Kathy, perfectly conveyed by People’s stalwart Maggie Childs in a sparkly dress, things are being kept as normal as possible.

In The Last Quiz Night on Earth, we, the audience, are the customers.

We sit at tables with quiz sheets and pens provided, waiting for quizmaster Rav (Sam Burrell) with his brainteasers and garish jacket perfectly attuned to a night of disaster.

Is this a play with a quiz or a quiz with a play?

Does it matter? In an extremely jolly way it allows for interaction with fellow audience members, even if it’s The Grateful Dead (us) swapping quiz sheets for marking with The Heaton Hinnies (adjacent table).

Good on flags, those Hinnies, incidentally.

Aimee McKay as Fran and Maggie Childs as Kathy. Credit: Paul Hood

Meanwhile, this being neither an ordinary night nor a conventional play, there are rude interruptions.

In barges a flustered bloke called Bobby (Mark Burden) who turns out to be Kathy’s somewhat estranged brother, eager to say hello before, as it were, saying goodbye.

Then there’s a girl, Fran (Aimee McKay), who has something urgent to say to Rav in between bouts of sickness and anxiety.

In Alison Carr’s vision of life on this planet and the imminent extinction thereof, people – being human – are reluctant to cast off their pressing emotional needs right up to the end.

So between the tables and at the bar Kathy, Rav and the intruders rake over the ashes of past grievances while, at the tables, we’re worrying about our answer to the unsettling planets question. Having opted for Pluto, we’re far from confident.

Sam Burrell as Rav. Credit: Paul Hood

And right to the very end, I’m a little put out that Rav never did award the prize for the best quiz team name – or even announce it.

With cruel irony, the first professional tour of The Last Quiz Night on Earth was knocked out by the pandemic back in 2020.

It survived, we survived and it’s good to see a fun play back on stage – even if all our days are numbered.

The Last Quiz Night on Earth is at the People’s Theatre until Saturday, February 17 – all being well! Visit the website to book.


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