Tag Archives: Dominic Bilkey


Apollo 13: The Dark Side Of The Moon



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


Go Bang Your Tambourine


Finborough Theatre

Go Bang Your Tambourine

Go Bang Your Tambourine

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 8th August 2019



“A wholesome odd-couple plot, interlaced with serious questions of morality, loyalty and duty of care”


As a general rule, give me a ticket to a three-hour fringe production of a play written in 1970, never performed in London, and I will give you a whole bunch of explanations why I sadly can’t attend. So I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that ‘Go Bang Your Tambourine’, directed by Tricia Thorns, is compelling, concise, and heartbreaking.

Young, bashful David (Sebastian Calver), an eager Salvation Army soldier, has lost his mother. His father, Thomas Armstrong (John Sackville), absent for the past four years, returns for the funeral to find David waist-deep in religious zeal and the wholesome SA way.

Living alone in his mother’s house, David is persuaded to take in a lodger. But rather than the appropriate young catholic boy working at the local chemist, he invites Bess Jones (Mia Austen) to rent the room. A bartender at the Golden Lion, Bess is a whole lot worldlier than David, and a fair bit older. But she’s respectful and sweet-natured, and most importantly, David believes, she was sent by God.

A wholesome odd-couple plot, interlaced with serious questions of morality, loyalty and duty of care.

Calver starts off looking like a wounded puppy for the entire first act, which wears a little thin – sad people don’t look sad all the time. Thereafter, however, he conveys an intimate understanding of his character – the occasionally funny, but mostly heart-rending combination of childish naivity and very real misery. After not too long the audience feels very protective of young David – I almost accidentally heckled in his defence in the second act, but just about managed to restrain myself.

Sackville plays the villain skilfully. Writer Philip King was not so binary in his understanding of what makes a man, and Sackville embodies this mess of humanity and cruelty, so that whilst the audience is certainly not on side, it’s hard to know exactly how much blame to lay at his door. Austen is similarly complex in her performance, making room for certain of Bess’ choices which might have appeared to contradict her nature, but which instead give depth to her character. Patience Tomlinson, playing the role of Major Webber of the Salvation Army, is understated but effective.

The entire play takes place in David’s sixties living room: dizzy floral wallpaper, lots of brown furniture and a space heater bizarrely covering the fireplace. Considering the set (Alex Marker) never changes and the play goes on nearly three hours, you might consider this a recipe for very dull disaster. But somehow, the audience is captivated throughout. The incredibly complicated relationships between each of the characters, thick with paradox and uncertainty, fill the stage and time to capacity. A story fundamentally about a naïve nineteen-year old boy living with a savvy Yorkshire lass, director Tricia Thorns brings us a tale full of nuance, coiled intensity and honest contradiction.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Phil Gammon


Go Bang Your Tambourine

Finborough Theatre until 31st August


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
A Funny Thing Happened … | ★★★★ | October 2018
Bury the Dead | ★★★★ | November 2018
Exodus | ★★★★ | November 2018
Jeannie | ★★★★ | November 2018
Beast on the Moon | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Time Is Love | ★★★½ | January 2019
A Lesson From Aloes | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Maggie May     | ★★★★ | March 2019
Blueprint Medea | ★★★ | May 2019
After Dark; Or, A Drama Of London Life | ★★★★ | June 2019


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