Tag Archives: Michael Salami

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

 

The Night Before Christmas
★★★

Southwark Playhouse

The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 30th November 2018

★★★

“This not-at-all-family-friendly Christmas tale is wickedly clever, and doesn’t fail to draw laughs”

 

It’s Christmas Eve, and Simon (Michael Salami) is less than thrilled to be called out of bed in the middle of the night. His friend, Gary (Douggie McMeekin), has caught an Elf (Dan Starkey) breaking into his warehouse. Or at least a man dressed like an elf. Elf claims he fell from Santa’s sleigh. Gullible Gary is inclined to believe him. Cynical Simon tells Gary to call the police. Elf begs to be let go, plying them with detailed information about Santa, including the Powdered Christmas Feeling (PCF) he gives to children (great high, no side effects).

Gary and Simon are still deliberating what to do when sex-worker Cherry (Unique Spencer) arrives, demanding the Power Rangers for her son Gary promised her in exchange for sex. Elf says he needs to get back to Santa’s sleigh, but when Cherry checks his arms, she finds track marks. Obviously a junkie. Elf protests, it’s just PFC! He’ll grant each of them one wish if they’ll just let him go…

This not-at-all-family-friendly Christmas tale is wickedly clever, and doesn’t fail to draw laughs. It’s also touching – surprisingly Christmas-spirited – as even the most jaded adults manage to rediscover the Christmas feeling.

Director Alex Sutton’s revival of Anthony Neilson’s play, which premiered in London in 1995, is as sweary and gritty (real cigarettes smoked on stage) as its “in-yer-face” author intended. Unfortunately though, the story has just got started when it’s dragged to a near-standstill by overly-lengthy expositional dialogue. Gary and Simon spend too long questioning Elf and not believing him. Their extended Q&A interrogates the rules of Santa’s operation to an unnecessary extent, and while Elf’s explanation is unique, it’s pure exposition. The performance feels stalled with Simon constantly threatening to call the police, and neither of them making a decision. When Cherry finally arrives on the scene, it’s like being yanked out of the mud. The pace falters again later with the characters’ circular debate over which wishes to choose. When a play has a 65-minute runtime, it’s not good for scenes to feel long.

McMeekin, Salami, and Spencer give high-energy, confident performances with skilled comedic timing. Starkey’s decision to play the elf straightforward – distressed and desperate – forgoes some of the potential comedy in the role. Designer Michael Leopold has made effective use of a sparse set, and delights the audience with some well-timed ‘Christmas magic.’

Considering Soho Theatre’s 2013 revival of The Night Before Christmas was a musical, there’s a question of whether this 2018 revival has anything to add to the original. The script provides an excellent premise, but it feels as though Sutton has missed an opportunity to address its flaws, and contribute a fresh perspective.

The Night Before Christmas is fun, silly, ‘alternative’ Christmas theatre, but this revival doesn’t lift the play above the original’s pitfalls.

 

Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Darren Bell

 


The Night Before Christmas

Southwark Playhouse until 29th December

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Old Fools | ★★★★★ | March 2018
The Country Wife | ★★★ | April 2018
Confidence | ★★ | May 2018
The Rink | ★★★★ | May 2018
Why is the Sky Blue? | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Wasted | ★★★ | September 2018
The Sweet Science of Bruising | ★★★★ | October 2018
The Trench | ★★★ | October 2018
The Funeral Director | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Seussical The Musical | ★★★★ | November 2018

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