The Starship Osiris
Reviewed – 7th August 2019
“The charisma and talent of each performer is beyond doubt”
The Starship Osiris looks from the start to be a play handcrafted from amateurism – from the badly-painted office chair that serves as the Captain’s helm, to the far-from-space-age computer effects on the screen behind. But for overbearing actor George Vere, it is his masterpiece. The rest of the cast will just have to put up with it, and him. So begins a production that is unapologetically silly and joyful, and a welcome addition to “The Play That Goes Wrong” genre.
At first, the show is pure and delightful sci-fi pastiche. Each scene bounds gleefully into one trope after the next; the script offering up vague mentions of “space years”, unpronounceable planets, and ridiculous aliens with pitch perfect timing. The perky Starettes (Molly Bird, Lola Claire, and Jo McGarry) dance adoringly around their captain (obviously Vere himself), whilst he engulfs the stage either narrating his own virtues or criticising lowly mechanic Evans (a great performance from Adam Willis). As enemies threaten the starship, surprise, surprise, it is only Captain Harrison’s poorly-choreographed punching (surely a homage to Star Trek’s Kirk) that can save the day. But the rest of the cast are only just getting started.
It’s hard not to laugh at Evans’ increasingly blank-faced delivery of lines and the other cast members’ underwhelming interactions with low-budget props (bin bags, tents, and blankets all working their hardest as galactic phenomena in this production). As the space shenanigans grow more extravagant, one by one each performer abandons gusto for their roles with some wonderfully subtle acting worth watching out for. But it is when Evans’ finally breaks character and picks a fight with Vere that the play truly runs riot, veering off into a realm where the audience is left wondering what on Earth – or in space – will happen now.
The script, a collaboration between George Vere and Adam Willis, is packed with infectious humour, but it would be nothing without the actors, who are the bright stars of the show. The charisma and talent of each performer is beyond doubt. They play their dual roles with perfect precision and are a delight to watch, although the script does give some more time to shine than others.
The costumes work well as obviously low-budget Star Trek, although Vere’s dramatic prancing about in his leggings is reminiscent more of David Bowie in Labyrinth than any of the stiff, stoic captains of the sci-fi golden era. Other elements add little touches that enhance the ridiculous atmosphere further, including a few clichéd songs featuring a deadpan keyboardist (Ian Coulter) and the introduction of the technician (Alex Wells-King) as part of the play. Even the staging is self-consciously goofy, but there is some smart choreography in the scenes towards the end, showing that, really, the actors know what they are doing.
While there is much here for both mainstream viewers and sci-fi fans to enjoy, there did seem to be some “space” for a few more jokes, especially in the latter half of the play. And the high-energy intensity of the show may not be for everyone. But, with a host of accolades from its 2017 fringe run already under its belt, The Starship Osiris has clearly tickled the minds of many. All in all, it ends up a charming theatrical romp – giggle-worthy from start to finish.
Reviewed by Vicky Richards
Image courtesy Willis & Vere
The Starship Osiris
Soho Theatre until 10th August
Previously reviewed at this venue: