Declan Green (left) and Matthew Lutton from <i>Pompei L.A. </i>.

Declan Green (left) and Matthew Lutton from Pompei LA. Photo: Simon Schluter

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Declan Greene
Merlyn Theatre
Until December 9

LOS Angeles is fast-forwarding towards doomsday. The dream factory churns out a nightmarish reality, a world where the talk show host is the prophet: ''Everything gets too big and then it ends.''

Playwright Declan Greene melds the pop cultural obsessions of his work in trash theatre duo Sisters Grimm with the apocalyptic anxiety of his Malthouse debut Moth, turning his acerbic and irreverent wit on washed-up child stars.

Under Matthew Lutton's direction, the production is as ostentatious as the city itself. Nick Schlieper's design emphasises spectacle, including a smashed Porsche, glass raining from the sky, neon backdrops and actors bathed in television static.

The spectre of Judy Garland (Belinda McClory) haunts this chaotic present, the prototypical young actor destroyed by a rapacious studio system.

But once tension builds to the point of eruption, the pace becomes surreally distended as we are confronted with what's left in the ashes: a scared boy alone in a hospital bed. It feels like an anticlimax, but the reality of a young man sprawled across a bonnet is not as thrilling as the tabloid coverage.

Pompeii, L.A. is explosive, intoxicatingly alive. It doesn't quite live up to its promise, but its audacity should be lauded regardless.

Garland's opening question - ''Is there any hope?'' - addresses a vast and urgent cultural malaise.