Tag Archives: Geoff Aymer


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


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Robin Hood: The Arrow Of Destiny

Theatre Peckham

Robin Hood: The Arrow Of Destiny

Robin Hood: The Arrow Of Destiny

Theatre Peckham

Reviewed – 6th December 2018


“sends you out into Peckham afterwards humming the music and full of goodwill to all”


You may not think of Robin Hood as a Christmas story, but this joyously realised version by Richard Hurford, with infectious Rap, Salsa and Reggae tunes by Rob Castell sends you out into Peckham afterwards humming the music and full of goodwill to all men, women and, in particular, the forty or so children of the cast, product of the venue’s own theatre school. This is the first production under incoming Artistic Director Suzann McLean (who also directs) and the perfect choice for this 30-year-old theatre’s mix of local talent and professionals.

The play’s twist of making Robin himself (academy alumni Malachi Green) so loveably hopeless means that all heroism and resolve for feeding the villagers and taking on the sadistic Sheriff of Nottingham (played with vulpine wit by Ray Newe) falls on the reluctant shoulders of Maid Marian (Ayanna Christie-Brown). Actually, this feels less like gender politics, more a hilarious reflection on modern life, with all these young inhabitants of Peckham growing up with no shortage of disappointing heroes. As the press release says, this Robin is real. In any case, he eventually faces his fears and we realise that figureheads are different to heroes and maybe communities need both.

As is traditional with Christmas shows, there is something for everyone, but it’s a nice change that the jokes for grown-ups are clever references, such as those to the ‘me too’ movement and austerity rather than the brash innuendos of pantomimes. Indeed, the production design as a whole foregoes glitz and noise for fun and charm. Instead of satin, sequins and extravagant headdresses, Designer Lily Faith Knight uses recycled materials; trees are made with corrugated cardboard and costumes gleaned from local charity shops, giving a retro impression which, when paired with the funky homemade music, recalls 70s rock musicals and Sesame Street in the time of Children’s Television Workshop.

As for performances, the irresistible feelgood factor ensures that the accomplished talents are loved, the less accomplished ones loved even more. The youngsters include some precocious talents, some surely destined to follow previous student John Boyega into a starry future. Others simply love inhabiting their parts – in this show every character has a name, no one’s just a villager! Of the grown-ups, Guy of Gisborne is portrayed with fun, energy and skill by debutante Gustavo Navarro, Friar Tuck played with aplomb and grumpy precision by Geoff Aymer. As Maid Marian, Ayanna Christie-Brown is tough, humble, yet full of bright-eyed optimism even while having to do everything herself, including delivering some magical musical moments in an effortless and soulful singing voice.

But as in every community, everyone fits in and plays their vital part. That’s the theme of this version of Robin Hood, but also of this production and of Theatre Peckham itself. And if it’s not a Christmassy theme, that’s Christmas’s problem.

Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Suzi Corker


Robin Hood: The Arrow Of Destiny

Theatre Peckham until 22nd December


Last five shows reviewed by this reviewer:
Semites | ★★★ | The Bunker | October 2018
The Trench | ★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | October 2018
Woman of the Year | ★★★ | The Space | October 2018
Love Lies Bleeding | ★★★★ | Print Room at the Coronet | November 2018
The Seagull | ★★★ | The Tower Theatre | November 2018


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