“Cook is a confident, competent and compelling performer”
A stern and solemn musician (Patrick Bell) sits on stage waiting for it all to begin. Keyboard, guitar, and violin form a wall around him; a triangle dangles in front. The musician won’t smile once for the whole hour, nor will he speak. Like the audience, he’s waiting for the main event. Cameron Cook gracefully glides into the light. ‘It All’, a dreamlike journey tackling life, death, love and capitalism, begins.
It’s a tricksy show to sum up. Cook, whose black lipstick, white vest, black trousers and braces are reminiscence of a clowning street-performer, speaks a finely penned poem delving into life’s bigger mysteries. Like a young Jim Carrey, he is constantly interrupted by new characters, scenarios, blink-and-you-miss-it moments that possess his body and cause absurd and hilarious physical and vocal changes. A father and son talk about the meaning of life. An old Southern American man warns there’s a “storm a-comin’”. A slick businessman descends into Gollum-like madness. By the end, it’s only the performer who remains, demanding a curtain call and pontificating on what ‘it all’ could mean.
I must admit, the rest of the audience seemed to enjoy this performance much more than I did. Cook is a confident, competent and compelling performer. He switches between characters and situations with absolute ease, and his physical contortions are astounding. Watching him perform is like switching between radio stations, each moment completely different, drawing you into weird and wonderful worlds for all-too-brief moments. However, the lack of cohesive structure is a gnawing issue, the final message is not quite clear.
If there is a message. Ever aware of being a performer on stage in front of an audience, Cook’s show might just be a showcase for his talents and an evening of clownish cabaret entertainment. This audience was certainly hooked throughout. For me, the transformations became a little too repetitive. With no completely coherent connection between them, the array of characters wasn’t varied enough in tone, nor funny enough to be thoroughly enjoyable.
Despite that, there are, of course, moments of pure joy. The relationship between performer and musician is smart and humorous, and Cook’s capitalist Gollum was a personal highlight. Bell plays his instruments with commitment and gusto, making his triangle playing especially watchable. The lighting is stark and bright – a simple set up but ideal for a show where the focus is on performance.
Mildly enjoyable for some, a masterpiece for others, this show is certainly not for everyone. If clowning and mid-nineties Jim Carrey is your bag, you’ll be up on your feet at the end. For me, the show needs a slightly more coherent through-line to move beyond just being a showcase of acting talent. Cook and Bell are a delight though – and it is Cook’s boundless energy and optimism that makes the hour-long running time whizz by.
“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.