If you would have told me that one of my favourite things I had seen this year is a documentary about a bunch of small town English bus drivers putting on a scene by scene stage version of Ridley Scott’s classic Alien, I would have told you, you were absolutely bonkers and such a glorious sounding thing surely does not exist. Fortunately for me and the world, it does. Not only is this completely absurd idea real, it is incredibly entertaining to watch and the comradery and love for the source material shines through in the performances.
The documentary follows a group of bus drivers from a small village of Cornwall under the direction of Dave Mitchell and his company. While the documentary follows the show production quite closely, we never get too much of a look into the lives of the actors themselves, however a great decision to focus on the complete absurdity of the production turning this classic sci fi film with loads of special effects and well being set in space,there are a million reasons for it not to work. The pure morbid curiosity about how all of this can possibly come together and work keeps you watching.
Seeing the show switch from Cornwall to London is where the film really shines. You can really feel the audience getting into the show, cheering along with their favourite parts of the movie re-enacted on stage. This is amplified when the prop guy Peter delivers an incredibly realistic looking Xenomorph costume that looks ridiculously realistic in the right light behind a white sheet. Several other scenes including the chest bursting scene and discovering the egg pod sack things are done with really clever practical effects and a garish green light that harks back to the film version.
The audience reacting to the live show really helps you feel like you are inside the show experiencing this with them. The constant laughter, the applause and the sense of a good night out really shines through. If that wasn’t enough the entire show is done for charity and has been held regularly ever since. There were times it was hard to understand if the filmmakers were having a joke or were in in on the fun of the show. While this position is never 100% made clear, it does kind of teeter between the both at different times during the film.
What is a lot of fun is seeing the directors love of the film and his children who have been raised on the film series and their discussion about the many times they have seen the film in many formats. The viewing parties, trivia nights and paraphernalia will speak to fandoms everywhere, particularly those of Ridley Scott’s films. Being that fans and cosplayers and even fan conventions are everywhere now, this really taps into that audience and can definitely relate to this part of it. This turned in a lot of understanding for where the director and the creators of this stage show are coming from.
The troupe put on the first performance in their home-town and sell only 20 tickets to their premiere performance. It’s not till the small group of fans who discover this and do a crowd funding to get to the show to London for its next show. While the actors are really not taking what they are doing seriously, their performances are definitely flawed in the stage production and ameateur doesn’t even begin to describe it. That being said, if it was a full serious performance, it would definitely not have worked as well.
Alien on Stage is one of the most entertaining documentaries I have seen, it feels almost like The Office / Parks & Recreation in style and it works in all the best ways. Watching the journey of this very ambitious show from a group of bus drivers who we don’t always get to know as well as I would have liked, the pace is really quick and keeps things moving so your interest never falters.
Alien on Stage is showing now as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival.
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