18th Aug2021

Fantasia 2021: ‘Alien On Stage’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Features: Luc Hayward, Lydia Hayward, Pete Lawford, Dave Mitchell, Jacqui Roe | Written and Directed by Lucy Harvey, Danielle Kummer

I remember reading about this story a while ago and it seemed like a very obvious story to cover as a documentary. But Alien On Stage is so much more than you can imagine and it’s an absolute joy.

A group of Dorset bus drivers and bus company workers perform a very amateur dramatic pantomime. For those outside of the U.K. a pantomime is a theatrical production that involves music, slapstick comedy and audience interaction, usually based around a fairy tail and performed around Christmas. They’re usually pretty awful for anyone watching that is over twelve years old. The writer of this years pantomime for the bus workers didn’t want to write a pantomime, instead he chose a stage version of Alien!

It’s a crazy idea but clearly a brilliant one. We follow the production via rehearsals and interviews with the people involved, as well as clips from the original Alien movie and short clips of the previous pantomimes. One of the key elements of why I enjoyed Alien On Stage so much (and there’s many) is that everyone involved is nice. I know some people hate that word, nice, but sometimes it is the perfect word and that is the case here. These are ordinary but lovely people. People you see everyday and people that will make you smile. Even if there acting isn’t exactly Oscar-worthy, they all have a strange sense of charisma and definite charm to them. Even the people that aren’t on stage, the prop makers, the sound and lighting team, the director and writer, they all radiate with happiness and charm.

Unfortunately, despite there best efforts, and this isn’t just them having fun, it is also to raise money for charity, the production is a bit of a flop. After a show with an audience of about twenty people, the director gets a phone call from a documentary film-maker who saw the show, asking if they would like to be involved in a crowdfunder that would hopefully end with them performing Alien On Stage in a theatre in Leicester Square. And I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that is exactly what happens.

Once we get to see the cast and crew in Leicester Square the documentary becomes even more delightful than before. I have to admit though, that I absolutely felt nervous for them as the hours and minutes passed before the big one-off performance. But then we get to see the highlights of the show, the crowd reacting to it all and the happiness of them discovering and seeing how well it is all received. It’s not often a film makes me this happy.

Perhaps what I didn’t expect Alien On Stage to do was make me desperately be back in a crowd again. Like almost everyone, due to COVID, I have not been to any kind of events for at least eighteen months. But watching this crowd laugh along to what was happening on stage, I wanted to do that again and hopefully I will soon.

If there’s any chance of seeing the actual show, I definitely will but watching this documentary with an audience would be the next best thing and fingers crossed in the not to distant future, people will get the chance to do that too.

Not many films make you as happy as this will. Alien On Stage put a great big smile on my face. Whether you’re an Alien fan or not, you’ll love this heart-warming documentary.

**** 4/5

Alien On Stage screened as part of this years Fantasia Film Festival.

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