REVIEW (From a Distance): (It’s not all) Zoom & Gloom (Roustabout Theatre Company)

Zoom has become something of a recurring theme in our recent reviews. Unsurprising really, given that it’s probably a fundamental feature of lockdown life for many people. It’s certainly seeped into every aspect of our lives and even the munchkins have been getting in on the Zoom action, using it for everything from playdates and dance classes to conducting their inaugural interview for the blog! Our favourite function of Zoom is its ability to bring live theatre into the living room. But while audiences are still stuck behind their screens, is it wise to put on a play about the tedium of lockdown life or would it be wiser to indulge in escapism?

(It’s not all) Zoom & Gloom is the second play from Roustabout Theatre Company, creators of the excellent LUNA: A Play about the Moon which played at VAULT Festival earlier this year and was then made available online in the early weeks of lockdown. Their latest offering, by writer and director Toby Hulse, is designed especially for digital delivery. It was performed live on YouTube for two performances and a recording remains available if you missed it. Suitable for ages 5+ it’s a semi-improvised, heartwarming comedy about the awkward encounters that we’ve all had online, and the value of staying connected while we are physically apart.

Jake (Alex Stedman), Sam (Gergo Danka) and Alice (Shaelee Rooke) have decided to get together online to cheer up miserable mate/colleague/uncle Ben (Robin Hemmings). But Ben (when he eventually arrives) is having none of it. So when he goes off to clean himself up after an unfortunate spillage, the remaining trio (plus Sam’s roommate Hannah (Nathalie Codsi)) concoct a plan to help him see the importance of human connection. Inspired by the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, they take it turns to dress up as the ghosts of Ben’s past and future….plus a present because Alice is a bit confused by the whole concept. Will Ben see the error of his ways and embrace e-socialising? Or will he remain a lockdown recluse?

It’s probably not much of a spoiler to say that things don’t turn out to be all that bad for Ben. And it’s also safe to say that Zoom & Gloom proves that theatre can can be both topical and entertaining. It may well hit close to home (quite literally given that’s where the audience is located) but it’s brilliant fun for the whole family. Like LUNA, it’s one of those rare shows that manages to engage a wide range of ages, without resorting to talking down to the children or sneaking in innuendo for the adults. It’s just a really relatable play, which manages to cram the cringeworthy experiences we’ve all had online into a bonkers version of A Christmas Carol without the Christmas bits. It got the Mrs Mummy seal of approval which, as regular readers will attest, is no mean feat – especially when she’s watching from a comfy sofa and there’s nobody to judge her if she rests her eyes! The munchkins also really enjoyed it, even if it did prompt a rather lively debate about whether or not A Christmas Carol is indeed a work of fiction! (Mummy reckons that this little interlude made it extra educational. In fact, by her reckoning, the show as a whole probably ticks off PSHE, history, geography, literature, and ICT. Plus maths if you make a monetary donation to Roustabout Theatre. So that’s pretty much homeschool done for the day. Hooray.)

After almost 100 days of lockdown, you may well be suffering Zoom fatigue, but don’t be a Ben. Make sure you check out Zoom & Gloom!

(It’s Not All) Zoom & Gloom played live on YouTube on 13 and 14 June 2020. You can catch up via the link below. Tickets are free, but please consider a donation if you can afford it: