Directed by Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer, Alien on Stage is an unexpectedly heartwarming documentary about an amateur theatre group comprised of Dorset bus drivers who set out to produce a stage adaptation of Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi/horror Alien. Though their initial adaptation is serious, they are given the opportunity to take their show to London’s West End as a comedy.
Alien on Stage adopts a fly-on-the-wall approach, combining interviews with cast and crew, footage of rehearsals and performances, as well as clips from the original Alien film. Harvey and Kummer draw a parallel between the group’s foray into the unknown of the London theatre and the crew of a spaceship encountering the strangeness of the cosmos. What begins as a quirky tale of a haphazard production slowly evolves into a sweet rumination on art and the human need for creative expression. Wisely, the directors avoid taking their subject matter too seriously, but also refrain from making their bus drivers- turned-thespians the butt of the joke. They leave room for the cast and crew to describe their play in their own words, showing impressive restraint for first-time directors.
No one involved in the production has a professional background in film or theatre, and everything from the script and lighting to the costumes and sets are the work of individuals relying on nothing more than their own ingenuity (and internet ‘how to’ videos) to get the job done. For example, the head of the alien costume is fixed to an every-day bicycle helmet and the success of the all-important chest-burster is dependent on fishing line and luck. The results, while by no means polished, are impressive nonetheless.
Alien on Stage is a must watch for theatre geeks and fans of Alien alike. Ultimately, the documentary serves as a reminder that art need not be perfect to be meaningful to both the artist and the audience, and sometimes the best ideas are the ones that take us out of our comfort zones.
For more information on the festival, visit the official Toronto After Dark website.
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