Brighton Festival 2017
Set in New Albion—tomorrow’s austerity Britain—a broken country owned and controlled by the mega-corporation New Global. In this world Jim Walters (Dom Coyote), a hapless astronaut, is shot into space to become the first man on Mars, but on the day of his launch, armageddon strikes and Jim’s rocket is trapped in orbit around a dying Earth. As he circles in his spaceship he composes songs for the end of the world for an audience that may no longer exist.
Taking the form of a part-gig, part-play the multi-instrumentalist five-piece band (Dom Coyote & The Bloodmoneys) also play all the character roles with convincing aplomb, and each get a turn to shine. It’s a classic rock opera that recalls The Who’s Tommy, with the band playing a wide range of music, from classic Pop through Acid Jazz to Punk Rock, to even a haunting track reminiscent of David Bowie’s The Villa of Ormen, from his final Black Star album. And the show does unashamedly wears its cultural references on its sleeve, being inspired by Philip K Dick’s post-apocalyptic novel Dr. Bloodmoney, with heavy nods to Bowie’s Major Tom, and slightly more obscure references to Planet of the Apes and other classic sci-fi.
The show is also very political, parodying the paranoid nimbyism of Brexiteers, circling their wagons in a “perfect” gated community of Ashley Coombe, complete with its own Daily Mail touting Mary Whitehouse-esque prophet. Raging against this are the impoverished and marginalised masses, the “Free Radicals” struggling to survive against an oppressive Plutocracy. Throughout the show there are humorous announcements from New Global, and plot progressions on a large screen, including a surprise onscreen guest appearance from a BAFTA-winning actor revealing the true reason for the hitherto unexplained apocalypse.
A graduate of National Youth Theatre and Cornwall’s renowned Kneehigh theatre company, Coyote is an accomplished and heartfelt performer and writer, and while there maybe a few plot holes and issues that could do with some clarification, generally the concept holds together very well and with catchy songs, such as the opening and closing Dear Old World, that will leave you humming them as you leave the theatre, and there’s no greater accolade than that. In fact, for such a doom-laden story, you’re left with a remarkably upbeat feeling. With a little tweaking here and there and some improved stage theatrics/effects I could very easily see this becoming a classic West End musical in the vein of Return to the Forbidden Planet. Well worth catching before everyone else claims it as their own.