Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Two accomplished actors play all the parts of every space movie you’ve ever seen. (Spaceships played by Kitchen implements!).
The audience are plunged into darkness at the beginning of ‘A Space Oddity’ as the dramatic radio voiceover opening of ‘War of the Worlds’ beckons us into the world of aliens and spaceships.
As the voiceover ends the lights rise like a new dawn (courtesy of Rachel Duthie’s excellent lighting design) over the 4-box monolith placed neatly centre stage. Those four boxes are to become the ingredient of so many sets, from spaceship interior, to stasis machine, coffee vendor to onboard computer – no opportunity is missed in this fast-paced comedy.
Enter (out of ‘Stasis’) world weary Captain Thomas Jefferson (Gavin Robertson) and wide-eyed rooky Chip Huston (Jonathaon Bex) as they journey to Jupiter on a mission to discover the meaning behind the mysterious monolith. It’s a joy to see these two play on stage together – every movement, every switch from one character to the next (my favourite being Patrick Moore, and the wobbly-lipped aliens) seem effortless. They are not only masterful clowns; I have never seen two actors so in control of their bodies – the moments of zero gravity, space walking and, in particular, planet tennis are expertly realised.
As the plot thickens the actors do not miss a trick – the use of kitchen implements to represent spaceships is never explained but the audience had no need to care, watching with baited breath at the ‘docking’ of a grater with an egg whisk and laughing in delight at the ET-esque use of fruit to represent the planets. Everything is created from a few basic props and the actors themselves – they produce everything from sound effects to flashing lights, video link ups and sliding doors. Actors and puppeteers are told that if you believe something is true on stage, the audience will also believe it and this is never truer here.
But despite all the physical theatre, the icing on the cake for me was their witty use of the clichéd language of science-fiction b-movies. The William Shatner-esque moments of faux passion complemented the brazen use of direct film quotes, unashamed name puns and a little bit of bathroom humour thrown in for good measure.
I was a little concerned that I wasn’t going to appreciate all the references to the genre that this show had to offer but those references came so thick and fast that, whilst I am sure I missed more than a few, there were so many joyous moments of recognition that I was kept thoroughly entertained from start to finish.
Hugely creative, cheeky and complete with a big heart – if a play is about playing, then this is playing at its best.