FANTASIA 2021: SCREAM WITH DELIGHT AT ALIEN ON STAGE
A group of bus drivers, from Dorsett, England, embark on a bizarrely engaging, and strangely compelling, amateur stage production of Ridley Scott’s ALIEN.
In what looks like what could be a brilliant satirical piece is a totally real documentary of a group of working class Britts attempting the very ambitious task of turning a complicated, and very effects heavy, cinematic sci-fi classic as a low-budget stage-play. These aren’t highly trained thespians. These aren’t Hollywood calibre FX people. They’re just everyday working class folk that enjoy doing this. They just like getting together and putting on small shows in very small venues for their favourite charity. And that love is very evident on the screen.
Because this isn’t the best of adaptations, and at times it’s just downright comical, but there’s so much love there that it makes it all rather endearing. A performance so endearing, in fact, that it caught the eye of a few ALIEN fans, including the directors of this doc, Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer. These fans, who drove for 3 hours to see this little community play, were immediately taken by the whole thing and started a fan group, which in turn got a campaign going to get Bus Drivers to perform it at a prestigious theatre in the West End of London.
And that campaign became so successful that it sparked the idea for this documentary, and here we are. And this whole production is a rather odd idea. They’re used to putting on small Christmas pageants… and this is no small time christmas pageant. and seeing the ups and downs and stress and joy of this all is highly compelling. The initial performance had a rather low turnout and would be considered an otherwise bust. Yet, the show must go on!
You really get a sense that the whole production is a small family affair, and it really is. The writer of the adaptation, Luc is son of the lead, Lydia, who plays Ripley. The two of them are life long ALIEN fans. Her partner is the stage director, David, and Lydia’s dad built the sets. Even Luc’s girlfriend is involved in costuming and David’s son. And there’s more family and friends involved in the production. It’s just a small community of Bus Drivers, current and former, and their family and friends all working together to make this whole thing work.
And on the topic of the effects, seeing how they recreated the Xenomorph costume and infamous chestburster scene is easily one of the highlights of this piece. It’s sometimes downright genius. The Nostromo made from scratch is truly a sight to behold.
When we finally see highlights of the production in its full glory in the West End, you can feel the beaming of the audience. You’re right there with them. Those hardcore fans of the franchise that know this film inside out seeing it in a way you never have before. You want them to succeed. You are rooting for the cast and crew to pull this off more than you even rooted for Ripley in the original.
This film captures all that magic, and the trials and tribulations leading up to the grand night. A first time feature for directors Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer, the film is intercut with scenes from the original film, with a fun replica of the Nostromo computer interface. It’s done to great effect. It’s a slim doc running at 1h24 and there’s not an ounce of fat on it. It’s exactly what you’d want from a documentary about a bunch Dorset bus drivers turned space freighter crew.
A pure joy for any Sci-Fi or Theatre fan, ALIEN ON STAGE was one of the funnest docs I’ve seen in a long while. In space no one can hear you scream, but you’ll be screaming with absolute delight cheering these bus driving thespians on.
Fantasia Fest runs through august. ALIEN ON STAGE can be streamed ON DEMAND.