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Blast Off! – Soho Theatre Downstairs, London

Curated by Jon Brittain, Lucy Jackson and Claire Turner

Reviewer: Ashwin Bhardwaj

[rating:3.5]

Presented by Misshapen Theatre, Blast Off! was a night of six short comedy plays with a science-fiction theme, written and performed by some of the hottest young talent on the British scene today. Hosted at the Downstairs Soho Theatre, more usually a cabaret space and full of tables and chairs rather than classical theatre seating, the overall ambience was closer to the intimate feel of a stand-up-comedy night. And, despite the claims by the compere at the night’s start, you don’t have to be a geek, nerd or Trekkie to find pleasure in this collection of plays.

Given the venue, the over-arching theme and the “Britain’s Hot Young Talent” moniker, one would have been forgiven for expecting an over-excitable, rough-around-the-edges Fringey piece. Instead, the plays were well-acted, well-produced and tightly performed. Good use of miming, physical theatre and creative use of lighting and sound worked well with the limitations of the venue rather than trying to do too much in too small a space.

The evening, which has previously played at Theatre503, was curated by self-confessed nerds, Jon Brittain, Lucy Jackson and Claire Turner, to create what they claim is the galaxy’s only sci-fi theatre night. Yet under that term came lots of diversity across the writing. A Live Presentation – a scientific experiment to prove telepathy – proved a great kick-off to the evening, warming up the audience with a nice physicality, witty lines and a sense of fun. Alan Bennett in Space did what it said on the tin with an excellent solo performance by John Luke Roberts, who also wrote the piece. A slightly camp version of the great playwright, it was well-observed and funny, even for those not particularly familiar with Bennett.

Joshua Conkel’s Up With (Some) People, about people being taken away by a higher power, delivers some poignant reflections on how to live life while still managing to be most amusing. Then a change in pace followed, with a cabaret performance by some Martians in The Story Of The Cryogenically Frozen Humanoid And The Impending Hen Party, by Afsaneh Gray.

Just A Few Of Us closed the show with a neat little piece about a man’s worst nightmare/best fantasy after an earth-wide apocalypse, an intriguing twist on the 28 Days Later genre.With the relaxed venue, and the plays only running to just over an hour, Blast Off proved a fun and funny show to watch, stretching preconceptions about sci-fi and showing just how widely entertaining it can be.

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