It’s the end of the world as we know it and everything’s pretty much gone to hell. But women still get their periods – not that your typical movie script would notice. But young Mary is a visionary – she’s written a movie about women surviving the apocalypse – with friendships, monsters… and periods.

Tampocalypse opens with scriptwriter Mary (Khaylin Page) in a power-stance on a raised platform to the left of the stage. She delivers an impassioned oration, willing her dystopian setting into place – a bombed out supermarket, rubbish strewn about, windows orange in the setting sun. Bea (Rhema Sutherland) strolls in, cases the joint, and comes upon a bottle of clean water, which she guzzles with pleasure. She hides as Cat (Alex Schofield) and Tegan (Muna Arbon) approach. They pass some time playing games – until Farris (Georgina Marie) and Aoife (pronounce EE-FEE) (Shelley Waddams) turn up – all of them wary of the other. Until it’s discovered that Bea has tampons! Yes, tampons!!! Clean, sanitary, easy to use tampons! And, tampons that will keep “them” away because ‘they’ won’t smell blood.

Leslie (Briar Collard) rises from her seat behind Mary: she’s been nearly invisible until now. A studio executive, she has a few suggestions for the script. Firstly, at least one character needs to lose at least 10kgs. ‘Frying Pan’ Farris is too strong, she needs to be either a lesbian or a bitch. A woman can’t go alone to face a monster – a woman can’t even go to the toilet by herself! It needs – maybe a child dying or a lesbian love scene. 48% of the audience are men, you’ve gotta throw them some bait! And for godssake! No talk about menstruation.

The characters don’t care for these suggestions and (breaking the 5th wall??) let Mary know. Mary doesn’t like them either, but doesn’t have the confidence to stand up to Leslie. On to scene #112 – The Montage set to Blondie’s One Way or the Other – the feel-good scene we’ve become accustomed to, where everyone is happy, at least for a moment, sharing their ‘authentic’ happy selves.

Leslie suggests they need a pregnancy and birth storyline. When Mary protests because she’s never been pregnant, Leslie shushes her saying, “Men have been writing women’s pregnancies for decades!” The characters again rebel. And at least one of them has a secret.

Tampocalypse is a clever piece of writing, very ‘of the moment.’ I felt that Mary and her young cast of castaways are perfectly set in 2020, or 2023 as the apocalypse happened three years ago. They all appear to be straightforward and honest within their characters.

But Leslie is a mystery. Is she stuck in 2015, before #MeToo, Wonder Woman and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn? How old is she? Maybe she’s stuck in the 80s when female success often meant sticking it to your sisters? Or does she genuinely empathise with Mary and is just trying to help her get her movie made, which requires lots of compromise? The use of a female studio executive, instead of a (more likely) male executive, eliminates direct male-female conflict. But is Leslie a surrogate male, having internalised male standards and expectations as normal and Mary’s female-centric script as simply deviating too far? Or does she have a personal, possibly generational agenda?

Director Ashleigh Hook and Producer Rebekah Dack, co-founders of The  Embers Collective and creators of Tampocalypse leave all these questions deliberately unanswered. Along with the question as to whether or not Mary’s movie gets made – leaving us all with a lot to ponder. I for one, sure hope so. They’ve got the cast sorted and most of the nuts and bolts worked out. But I want to know more about “Them.” And what is Bea’s secret?

Lights! Camera! Action!

~Veronica McLaughlin

Tampocalypse is playing at TAPAC through 1 March. For more information and ticket sales, go HERE.

Veronica McLaughlin