If a comet was streaking its way towards Earth and set to bring fiery doom to the world in a week's time, what would you do? Stockpile booze? Book a flight halfway around the world to get a front row seat for the apocalypse? Or just veg out on the couch?
The latter forms the main premise for Top Story, with two young blokes sitting on the sofa watching the world's reactions unfold on the telly. Though Lewis Moody and Ed Pinker as Talfryn and Gus make a likeable enough pair, even the director of a daytime sitcom would discard some of their snippets of circular dialogue.
We're rewarded with an ounce of frenetic energy somewhere around the end of the first half of the play, written by Sebastian Michel and directed by Swedish-Hungarian Adam Berzsenyi Bellaagh, but quality control should have severely trimmed the slow repartee of the two twentysomethings.
Watching the pair unobserved are two apparently post-modern angels in white NASA-cum-removal van suits (James Messer and Stephen Schreiber), who waft around the stage and spout nonsense about how big the universe is. At least they help push around the Chesterfield sofas on wheels in the trendy Old Vic Tunnels for the rest of the cast to act on.
Most laughs come from scenes cross-cut with the boys, featuring the "sexiest woman on earth", British news anchor Chrissie Craven (brilliantly hammed up by an actual TV presenter Josephine Kime). In these skit-like segments a line-up of science experts and colleagues (funny turns from Andy Hawthorne and Richard Matthews) all desperately proposition her. The correspondent caricatures can be a hoot and serve as a neat - if repetitive - comment on how ludicrous rolling news coverage can be.
While an amusing concept, disappointingly Top Story ends up almost as flat as the ale the boys stockpiled to see in their last 24 hours. In fact, the small reservoir of repeated jokes in this comedy too often makes you wonder how boring the wait for the end of the world might be.
-by Vicky Ellis