Tag Archives: Charlotte Peters

Apollo13

Apollo 13: The Dark Side Of The Moon

★★★★

Online

Apollo 13

Apollo 13: The Dark Side Of The Moon

Online via Original Theatre

Reviewed – 11th October 2020

★★★★

 

“a poignant and prescient story about our connections and divisions”

 

It’s a little bit mind-blowing to think that last year marked half a century since we first landed human beings on the moon, in technology less advanced than the laptop I’m currently typing this on. It really boggles the brain to think what a short space of time that is in the grand scheme of things, and how exponentially far we’ve come since then.

Or have we? That’s the question Apollo 13: The Dark Side of the Moon asks in this innovative online play from Original Theatre Online.

A mixture of transcripts and dramatic license by writer Torben Betts, Apollo 13 focuses on two different times: the mission itself that took place in 1970 with Fred Haise (Michael Salami), Jim Lovell (Christopher Harper), and Jack Swigert (Tom Chambers), and an interview in 2020 with Haise and Lovell (their 2020 selves are played by Geoff Aymer and Phillip Franks) reflecting on their experience. For those who don’t know or haven’t seen the Tom Hanks film, the Apollo 13 mission became famous after an unexpected fault jeopardises the lives of the astronauts and they along with NASA mission control (voiced by Jenna Augen with impeccable nuance) are forced to abort the moon landing and find a way to get home safely. It’s an inherently dramatic and tense story and Betts’ script knows exactly how to work with it. In using transcripts, it keeps a grounded authenticity to the situation unfolding, reinforcing that these were just real people trying to do a job as we initially see the mundanity of them flipping switches, making calculations, and finding the best way to sleep. It feels as though the fictional elements creep in more and more, building towards the 25 minute period where the ship went round the dark side of the moon, communications went down, and there are no transcripts available. Here, Betts fully flexes the play’s thesis, almost too on the nose: isolated in the midst of a crisis, are there parallels to be drawn between then and now?

It certainly feels like it. Confined and without a sense of control, tribalistic racial tensions begin to spill over between Haise and Swigert, illustrating clearly how little we’ve progressed in some aspects in fifty years, and how high pressure situations have the potential to expose both the best and worst in people.

Our present crisis has allowed Original Online to display stellar ingenuity in the way Apollo 13 has been produced: the actors were supplied green screens and equipment to film at home with provocative remote direction from Alastair Whatley and Charlotte Peters. It’s a testament to the actors’ dedication and generosity in their performances that it’s never even apparent they’re not in the same space, no doubt also thanks to Tristan Shepherd’s tight film direction and editing, driven by Sophie Cotton’s propulsive music.

Apollo 13 could have fairly easily been a dry and dusty retread of a story that many already know. This production capitalises on the context of its development to tell a poignant and prescient story about our connections and divisions.

 

Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by Michael Wharley

 

Original Theatre

Apollo 13: The Dark Side Of The Moon

Online via Original Theatre until 31st December

 

Previously reviewed by Ethan:
Four Play | ★★★ | Above The Stag | January 2020
The Guild | ★★★½ | The Vaults | January 2020
Far Away | ★★½ | Donmar Warehouse | February 2020
Republic | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Ryan Lane Will Be There Now In A Minute | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Big | | Network Theatre | March 2020
Stages | ★★★½ | Network Theatre | March 2020
Songs For A New World | ★★★ | Online | July 2020
Rose | ★★ | Online | September 2020
Entrée | ★★★★ | Online | September 2020

 

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Normality

★★★

The Other Palace

Normality

Normality

The Other Palace

Reviewed – 19th September

★★★

 

“A louder voice, greater dynamic variation and some brutal editing are needed to keep it afloat in the current swamp of new musicals”

 

The deluge of new musicals on the London theatre scene is a double-edged sword. Whilst this might please devotees of the genre, the wider appeal inevitably evaporates. And for composers and producers, this overcrowding adds its own challenges. The annual BEAM festival for new musicals, for example, received over three hundred pitches to be whittled down to fifty, while the West End continues to churn out re-issues, jukebox musicals, imports and any old film titles.

Thankfully there are now theatres dedicated to developing and promoting new musicals. The Other Palace is at the forefront of this movement, accepting submissions year-round as well as staging its ‘new musical workshop sharings’ where the audience is at the core of the process, witnessing the evolving show and offering feedback. “Normality” is one such musical testing the water. Subtitled “A Musical Guide to Quantifying Love in a World of Frauds and Scammers”, it is as quirky and zestful as its tag line suggests. Writers Jules Kleiser and Nige Reid are both song writers/musicians and have written the score for a four-piece rock band and ten voices. Under Charlotte Peters’ stylish direction, the cast of ten fill the stage, and the auditorium, creating a host of characters without feeling overcrowded.

At the centre is Norman Goodman, a small town, prog-rock obsessed keyboard player, with a nerdiness that is off the scale. Thinking that he is auditioning for a life changing gig he has, in fact, wandered into a corporate interview for a dodgy City trading company. Failing the interview, he nevertheless impresses by fixing the office computer. Invited to design an IT system to predict market trends for the firm, he then unwittingly finds himself embroiled in a Machiavellian financial scam. Norman’s narrow outlook on life is cruelly broadened as he battles with the dilemma of who to trust; a quandary he equates to a scientific equation.

The musical opens with too soft a punch. The band, placed up in the gallery, lack the volume to prick up the ears. But one quickly realises that this is to compensate for the singers not using mics. Whether this is an artistic or financial decision is unclear, but it does lead to problems of projection. Much of the libretto is lost during the solo numbers, particularly when some of the melodies wander beyond the actors’ vocal range. This is not ‘legit’ musical theatre, so the inconsistent quality of the singing can be forgiven, and where technique is occasionally lacking it is certainly made up for by character. Dan Buckley, in fine voice as Norman, is believable as the wunderkind with a heart, while Siobhan Athwal’s love interest mixes a no-nonsense steeliness with a true-hearted empathy. Ken Christiansen is all cockney brass as the bulldog CEO, unaware that all around him are ready to pull the carpet from underneath him. Claire Marlowe stands out as the privileged, upper class Lady Cocksure, with more faces than the town clock, who is intent on bringing everybody down.

But nothing unexpected really happens; either in the comedy, the dialogue or the score. With the exception of a refreshingly surreal Tango and a Ska infused number the soundtrack is quite monotone. It is like the composers are handling the material with kid gloves. There is a rawness to the satire of the book that is unmatched by a slightly reticent, almost polite, delivery of the guitar-based numbers. A louder voice, greater dynamic variation and some brutal editing are needed to keep it afloat in the current swamp of new musicals. At present it feels adrift in its own deference.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

 


Jonathan Evans

The Other Palace until 21st September

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Eugenius! | ★★★★ | February 2018
Suicide | ★★★½ | May 2018
Bromance: The Dudesical | ★★★★ | October 2018
Murder for Two | ★★★★ | December 2018
The Messiah | ★★★★ | December 2018
Toast | ★★★ | April 2019
Falsettos | ★★½ | September 2019

 

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