We Are Not Alone – Theatre Review

This morning there are reports of SETI (the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) investigating a possible extra-terrestrial signal in space… The folks behind ‘We Are Not Alone’ must be jumping for joy! This work in progress piece explores what we may need to be prepared for in the event of making contact with extra-terrestrial life. Presented as an interactive workshop, we are greeted by two very different experts, the enthusiastic astrobiologist Dr Alex Parker, and the straight-laced, no-nonsense Captain Sam Reynolds. As we are unaware of what the aliens may intend to do, we spend some time learning about and assessing which approach might be best in the event of a meeting/invasion; a military show of power or a peaceful welcoming. Presented in a warm and encouraging manner, this is audience participation but not as we know it, as we are asked for suggestions, questions and ultimately our opinion on extra-terrestrial life.

Sean Joseph Young plays Alex with that slightly flustered ‘a-dork-able’ energy we see quite commonly in sci-fi now, and he pulls it off with aplomb, coping extraordinarily well with any left-field answers from the audience. Indeed, this is often where his character flies, as he becomes a bit more sassy and a bit less CERN-y. Anna Ruben’s Captain Sam Reynolds is precisely what you’d expect, all stoicism, sarcasm and strength, and these two sci-fi tropes play delightfully well against each other in the workshop setting. Kudos to writer Kate Webster for highlighting (and having fun with!) the trope of the ‘strong woman’ here too.

In amidst this workshop scenario we are also presented with short scenes from each characters life –largely, Alex trying to connect with his mother whose memory is failing, and Sam trying to connect with her insular teenage son. Whilst there is an interest in seeing the backstory to these characters, it is never fully resolved or explained. For example, Alex seems desperate to ask his mother a question but we never fully understand what or why. Is he asking about whether he should do this workshop we are currently attending? Likewise, the scenes between Captain Reynolds and her son are intriguing, but we are never really shown how this tricky relationship might be affecting her, and/or her work. There’s definite potential to lay down hints and layers to a more rounded story from these characters, and it would make these sections feel much more integrated to the piece. I also feel perhaps a simple lighting change could help facilitate the transitions between the workshop and these scenes, rather than the sometimes prolonged usage of Karla DeVito’s song ‘We Are Not Alone’.

The audience participation worked well on the whole (always a tricky beast…), and the piece could even have coped with a little more of it! There were a few times where the audience were unsure if we should join in or grin quietly in the dark. For example, whilst I greatly appreciated the opportunity to nibble on a Flying Saucer (my favourite childhood sweet!), I really did think there would be more to it than just a sweet treat. I saved mine until the end in case it was some sort of psychological test on the workshop attendees or we were going to be plunged into a survival situation and asked what supplies we had!

On the projector, as well as useful slides for our workshop, we see two adorable little knitted aliens running about seemingly enjoying the banality of human life, but this is unresolved too. Are they already here on earth? How are they related to what we see/hear in the workshop? Is it just a way to cover transitions?

The concepts here are enjoyable and fluffy, yet seemingly all too relevant (!) Sci-fi lovers will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek commentary and characters, but we perhaps need to be made more certain of what is expected of us as an audience, and have some of our questions explored further and hopefully answered. With some development and tightening of the script, We Are Not Alone could be an incredibly sweet yet pertinent piece of theatre.

No rating will be given as this is a work-in-progress.

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Hen and Chickens
20th – 28th August 2016

www.katewebster.co.uk

© Carly Halse - Reviewed on Sunday 28th August, 2016.

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