This play is set three hundred years after the expulsion of long-lived Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Cain, banished for the murder of his brother Abel, drops in with his new partner from Africa, Lucy, the (real-life) famous scientific discovery of the earliest example of a hominid found in Olduvai Gorge.
So we’re conceptually somewhere between Sapiens, Children of Eden, Noye’s Fludde, Lucas Cranach’s famous 1528 painting, with more than a whiff of Charles Darwin – all anachronisitically spliced together with no apology to Monty Python. It’s an undoubtedly good idea but in the event I’m afraid it’s clumsy, self conscious and laboured. Yes, in places Going Ape is mildly witty (Eve’s “apple scrumping”, Cain’s “gap year” and God cast as a voice over) but in general it tries far too hard to be funny with a surfeit of “erectus” jokes and dreadful puns such as Genny-Sis (one of the characters is called Genny and likes to be addressed as Sis by her quasi sister-in-law) which becomes – geddit? – Genesis. Oh dear.
It’s a mystery to me, too, why anyone thought that a 75-minute piece needs a 15 minute interval after 35 minutes. It makes the show feel bitty and the audition/casting scene in the second half when it is decided that they will tell the story of the creation in drama (cue for weary self referential theatre jokes) is lifted straight out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream but Shakespeare is, of course, better. Then comes an ending so weirdly abrupt that no one in the audience the night I saw it realised it had finished.
It’s a pity because at the heart of all this there is some good acting as competent people struggle to make something of a pretty unsatisfactory piece. Delroy Atkinson for example, whom I last saw in Present Laughter at Chichester, is strong as the blokeish, clumsy Adam and Gemma Oaten is convincing as Lucy in the second half when she morphs into a well-observed director of useless amateurs – a rather stylish take on Peter Quince.