In space no one can hear you scream. On stage however, and at Frightfest, everyone can hear you scream… and laugh at Alien On Stage.
This charming documentary follows a group of Dorset bus drivers put on their amateur dramatic production of Alien.
The group normally put on a pantomime every year but when the writer and huge Alien buff tired of the traditional format, he pitched to them a stage adaptation. Undaunted by the pressure of adapting a multi-million dollar science fiction classic on zero budget, the budding amateurs threw themselves into it face(hugger) first.
Unfortunately, the Dorset audience was not ready for this unique piece of theatre and ticket sales were not what they hoped. However this is where fate stepped in, just like the plot of a Hollywood movie really. Director of the documentary Lucy Harvey happened to travel down from London to see it. So impressed with their ingenuity, she asked them that if she could raise the money via Kickstarter, would they put the show on again in London?
The film begins with the cast and crew finding out that the campaign was successful and they will play a limited one night engagement at London’s Leicester Square Theatre (next door to the Prince Charles Cinema).
From that point the documentary follows the team as the begin rehearsals for their big night in the West End. We are introduced to all the key players, and the crew members who managed to create all the special effects. From jumping facehuggers to full Xenomorph costume with controllable tail. They are a group of ordinary people thrust into an extraordinary situation.
There is drama on and off-stage as costumes are misplaced, directorial outbursts at actors corpsing or forgetting lines during rehearsals. All of it leading up to a nail-biting wait to see if they can pull off the impossible. As Ash might say “I can’t lie to you about your chances but you have my sympathies”.
The third act of the documentary is extended footage of the final performance in front of a sell-out crowd. One that was every bit enthusiastic as fans of The Room would be next door at the PCC.
From the moment the curtain goes up, the crowd is fully behind them. Cheering at every big moment when the effects work for the facehugger leaping out of the egg or the chestburster sequence. Or screaming in terror when the Xenomorph makes his entrance through the auditorium to stalk Brett.
At the interval, the cast have to be assured the audience is laughing with them and not at them!
A delight for Alien fans, this was a true labout of love. One wonders what Ridley Scott and the original crew of the Nostromo would make of it. One thing for sure is that the performers were fully deserving of the standing ovation they received and the documentary is just as crowd pleasing.
It is a classic underdog story and showcases the talent, creativity and plucky determination of the British arts sector. Whether professional or amateur. At a time when the Arts is under threat from a force more dangerous than any Xenomorph, Alien On Stage shows just how important the medium is in providing entertainment, joy and bringing people together.
Director: Lucy Harvey & Danielle Kummer
Runtime: 86 minutes