It got me to “crab measles”, to be honest. Even if that doesn’t sound like the perfect name for a virus capable of wiping out the entire male population, you’ll still enjoy Henpocalypse!. And you should definitely give it a try, because it will be good for you – but a barrier will probably remain between you and her forever. It’s kind of like how, if you’re not a cradle Catholic, you’ll never understand why Mrs. Doyle waits all night, every night, by the light switch with a tea tray just in case one priests would crave him at any point is so right – and so funny.
Anyway, forward to the apocalypse, as Caroline Moran writes and which her group of five drunken people did not witness, as they are locked in a remote cottage in Wales for a hen . After a chaotic descent from their hometown of Birmingham, during which there is hardly any dialogue other than hoarse shouts and drunken laughter – accompanied by chief bridesmaid Shelly (Callie Cooke, nailing the stressed big sister vibe attending the role) crashing into another car and rushing off without giving insurance details to its stuck owner – the party and the intrigue begin.
Bride (zilla) Zara (Lucie Shorthouse) is the queen bee, pampered by her monstrous mother Bernadette (Elizabeth Berrington), who has yet to pay her share of the pie. When Shelly coyly presses her on the matter that evening, she replies “I never move money after dark, bab” and that, as you might expect, has been Bernadette’s whole life. , that’s right. Cousin Jen (Kate O’Flynn, somehow managing – especially in later episodes – to channel the spirit of Lon Chaney in a 2023 BBC sitcom) dances happily despite the blood streaming down her ankles from her new shoes. Beautician Veena (Lauren O’Rourke) mostly drinks, though she thinks it’s her habit that keeps her most detached from the world. It will make sense later.
On the unwatched TV in the background, we see the plague unfold (“The Lobsters Not Currently Involved” subtitle), including government spokespeople collapsing and dying on live TV suddenly misnamed. I was surprised at how cathartic it was. I did not expect Henpocalypse! be the means by which I began to process my post-lockdown animosity, but here we are.
The girls inadvertently save a man from a crabby fate. When we go from the party at its peak to three weeks later, stripper Drew (Ben McGregor) is chained to the upstairs radiator and the plague seems to have passed on him, though he cries for all the great men who are gone. “Jérémy Clarkson! Jordan Peterson! Mark Russel! The loss is unimaginable! from everyone I hope Bafta takes note – one of Jen’s shoe wounds got infected and now the leg is rotting, although she “throws oven cleaner in there two times a day”. They leave her with a hammer to kill herself in case they don’t return from a shopping spree. She is grateful.
Henpocalypse! doesn’t get any less rude, rude, or frantic as it goes on, which is either a definite plus or minus depending on how it’s taken you already. But for those of us in the old group? The addition of a backstory of betrayal for two of the hens, the class war with the surviving yoga teachers on the next hill (“Our Flexible Friends”), and Bernadette’s growing ambition to become the “Jizz Bezos ” of the new world are all in sauce. And that’s before you get to the appearance of Danny Dyer, playing Danny Dyer with perfect comedic timing. It points to a growing surreal element in the proceedings that, in a convoluted way, helps you lean into both the stupidity and the backstory.
In the apocalyptic present, Zara remains sure that her fiancé, Gary, will have survived the crab measles and comes to pick her up. “I can feel it inside me fanny!” “It’s a long way from Congleton to your pussy, princess,” said Bernadette. “Not for Gary,” replies his beloved. Veena arms the rental car to drive home. “If there’s any chance my mother survived,” she says, “I can’t leave my sisters with her.”
Beyond writing and performances, Henpocalypse! provides the same kind of joy as Smack the Pony or, say, any of Michelle Gomez’s scenes in Green Wing. It’s the sight of women being cast in loud, reckless and silly roles, being asked to do liberated and liberating things in the name of comedy, and running with them towards the horizon. I wish it was even wilder next time, please.
Henpocalypse! broadcast on BBC Two and available on BBC iPlayer.