Tag Archives: Sophie Cotton


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


Rosenbaum's Rescue

Rosenbaum’s Rescue

Park Theatre

Rosenbaum's Rescue

Rosenbaum’s Rescue

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 15th January 2019



“a joyous four-hander with deeply nuanced characters and a master’s eye for pace, plot and humour”


Can history change? Our understanding of it certainly can. One little piece of information, one small scrap of evidence, can shift the whole narrative. In the case of ‘Rosenbaum’s Rescue’, it is the Danish occupation in 1940 and subsequent ‘rescue’ (or ‘flight’) of Danish Jews across the Øresund to Sweden that comes into question. How important are the myths we create for ourselves? What traces of history do we let steer out lives in the future?

William Fricker’s gorgeously wooden design places the action in a Danish country house that puts IKEA catalogues to shame. As light glides in through the skylight above, married couple Abraham (David Bamber) and Sara (Julia Swift) are preparing for a visit from their son Henrik. Before he arrives, old friend (and lover) Lars (Neil McCaul) arrives with German daughter Eva (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) to interview Abraham for a book he is writing on Danish resistance. Snow and a power cut keep the group together longer than planned, and as Danish history gets uncovered, there are more family secrets waiting around the corner.

A. Bodin Saphir has constructed a joyous four-hander with deeply nuanced characters and a master’s eye for pace, plot and humour. It’s a witty and erudite production that, despite its naturalistic and restricted setting, bounds with energy, is stunning to look at, and keeps you guessing until the end. Who is Henrik’s real father? What exactly was Abraham’s relationship to Lars’ father? As the pieces of each person’s history fall into place, we understand the depth of the relationships on display. Bamber plays the put-upon husband well, and the history between him and Lars is self-evident in how the actors interact. Myer-Bennett provides much appreciated cynical wit (as well as her own ‘dramatic’ reveal) and Swift counsels and advises her way through it all. “Come and help me in the kitchen” becomes her catchphrase to create space and give her two cents worth.

Kate Fahy has done a stunning job with direction. Moments of busy action keep the piece moving, but even in stillness, the ensemble keep the audience well in their grasp. Family drama has never been so gripping. ‘Rosenbaum’s Rescue’ is a show with heart, spirit, and style and ought not to be missed, especially for anyone with a passing interest in new perspectives on a war we all think we know well.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Mark Douet


Rosenbaum’s Rescue

Park Theatre until 9th February


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Rise & Fall of Little Voice | ★★★★ | August 2018
Distance | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Other Place | ★★★ | September 2018
And Before I Forget I Love You, I Love You | ★★★★ | October 2018
Dangerous Giant Animals | ★★★ | October 2018
Honour | ★★★ | October 2018
A Pupil | ★★★★ | November 2018
Dialektikon | ★★★½ | December 2018
Peter Pan | ★★★★ | December 2018
The Dame | ★★★★ | January 2019


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