Tag Archives: David Woodhead

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

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Little Miss Sunshine
★★★★★

Arcola Theatre

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 1st April 2019

★★★★★

 

“Mehmet Ergen directs the show with a freshness and inventiveness that allows the versatile and talented cast to sparkle”

 

What a treat this is. Turning a successful film into a stage musical isn’t an easy task, but this production by Selladoor manages it wonderfully. The story is true to the original and if you are wondering how the small Arcola stage can accommodate a VW van, a motel, a hospital and a Beauty Pageant, go and see it purely for the ingenuity of David Woodhead’s design.

This is one of those evenings at the theatre that has the audience buzzing and leaving the theatre with huge smiles. Some will also have a tune in their head, as there are some truly memorable songs (William Finn) in the show. The cast are excellent; this is a real ensemble piece where everyone gets a chance to shine, even those with smaller roles, such as Imelda Warren-Green who personified the old adage that there is no such thing as a small part with hilarious performances as Linda and Miss California.

For those not familiar with the film (written by  Michael Arndt), the story is about the Hoover family; a rather dysfunctional tribe, who drive from New Mexico to California so that their daughter Olive can enter a children’s beauty pageant. Olive, played this evening by Sophie Hartley Booth was the heart and soul of the show. She was hilarious, sweet and utterly captivating. Her performance in the talent competition brought the house down. Three other children, Ellicia Simondwood, Yvie Bent and Elodie Salmon played the Mean Girls, both the voices in Olive’s head that tell her she isn’t good enough and the other competitors in the beauty pageant. And delightfully mean they were.

The rest of the family each have their problems. Paul Keating played Frank, the gay uncle who has unsuccessfully tried to kill himself, with a gentle sureness of hand. Gary Wilmot’s scandalous grandpa is living on the sofa. He loves to shock, yet has real warmth and Wilmot brought a gorgeous tongue in cheek style to the role. Sev Keoshgerian managed to be very funny, characterful and convincing as Dwayne, Olive’s brother, even during the majority of the show when he doesn’t say a word. The parents, Richard and Sheryl, played by Gabriel Vick and Laura Pitt-Pulford are broke and struggling. Gabriel is optimistic about his ‘ten point plan for success,’ and expecting a book deal that never comes, but despite all the setbacks and obstacles, the family are determined to get Olive to the pageant. Pitt-Pulford sang ‘Something Better Better Happen’ with such genuine emotion that it brought a tear to the eye, and Vick’s ‘What You Left Behind’ was powerful and touching. They felt like a real family, each individually falling apart but coming together in the face of their difficulties; pushing the van to get it started, determined to finish the journey.

The two other cast members are Ian Carlyle and Matthew McDonald, who both take on a couple of contrasting roles. Carlyle is outrageously loud as the wonderfully dreadful pageant host, and equally good as the man who stole Frank’s lover. McDonald also convinces, both as the ex-lover and as the long suffering technical guy at the pageant.

Mehmet Ergen directs the show with a freshness and inventiveness that allows the versatile and talented cast to sparkle. There is a stunning live band above the stage (Musical Director Arlene McNaught) that perform their hearts out for every number. The perfect package is completed with great sound (Olly Steel) and lighting (Richard Williamson) throughout and some excellent choreography (Anthony Whiteman).

If Little Miss Sunshine gets a West End transfer, and it deserves to get one, I will be happy to say that I saw it in this smaller, more intimate space. Do go, if you can. The whole thing is a joy.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Manuel Harlan

 


Little Miss Sunshine

Arcola Theatre until 11th May

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Parade | ★★★ | May 2018
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives | ★★★★★ | June 2018
The Rape of Lucretia | ★★★★ | July 2018
Elephant Steps | ★★★★ | August 2018
Greek | ★★★★ | August 2018
Forgotten | ★★★ | October 2018
Mrs Dalloway | ★★★★ | October 2018
A Hero of our Time | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Stop and Search | ★★ | January 2019
The Daughter-In-Law | ★★★★★ | January 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com