Curated by Jon Brittain, Lucy Jackson and Claire Turner
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
The third such night of sci-fi shorts presented by Misshapen Theatre, this Blast Off! presented six playlets in ninety minutes on a variety of themes from alien abduction to time travel to sinister space pranks. Engaging, well put together and often surprising, this is an excellent evening’s entertainment that is guaranteed to include something you have never before seen on stage.
The plays themselves ranged from the good to the superb, and were well performed across the board. The Phantom Seahorse by Sally Torode was fun and witty with strong performances and a charmingly believable relationship between April (Jasmine Jones) and Steve (David Reed). Cleverly juxtaposing unreal and everyday situations – a couple having a domestic about an anal probe – and using rôle reversal to great comic effect, this opening piece was one of the most enjoyable. Alistair McDowall’s This One Goes Out To All My Motherfuckers Back Home is set in the future at a time when Earth is doomed and a percentage of the population is to be relocated to Mars. Affable B is hoping to be one of the lucky chosen few, but is subjected to a terrifying interview at the hands of a deadpan B where he is grilled about his life including his past sexual misdemeanours. Well written and directed this was a very strong piece, however the ending was a little weak and could do with some further thought. These plays were followed by a piece entitled Spacejunk – The Art of Fugue, written and directed by Phil Mann who also played one of the rôles. Amusing but perhaps a little too abstract, the actors seemed slightly uneasy with the material, so despite much of the piece being comical and with some nice audience interaction, some of it missed the mark.
The Beat My Time Machine Skipped by Annabel Wigoder was another very enjoyable offering. Research partners Charlie and Gemma (Chris Magee and Gabby Wong) test their time travel invention which results in the two experiencing a relationship they are yet to have in flashes. Intelligently written and very funny, this was a thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable play. The penultimate play, Blue by Tom Morton Smith, had a very different feeling that the other pieces, and provided a nice counterpoint. Although also shot through with comedy, this piece about a woman stranded on a space station also offered some depth of emotion with Kas Darley giving an engaging performance as Abi. This was complimented by Bryan Woltjen’s superb design, particularly on the appearance of an adorable alien, puppeteered by Javan Hughes. The alien dancing to the song Coconut literally stole the show, however it entirely fitted with the rest of the piece and added to the story rather than being an entirely separate entity. The final play, One in Three by Danielle Ward, took place in a world reminiscent of Star Trek where three characters have to battle for survival when their ship begins to self-destruct. Light-hearted and with some cracking one-liners this was the most obvious comedy in the line up and was brilliantly performed. Wendy Abiston’s Sue Basket was delightfully brash, while David Mildon gave a superb turn as the Rimmer-esque Montague.
An excellent event that is helping to promote new writers and give a theatrical voice to science fiction, Blast Off! is a wonderful evening and long may they prosper.