An amateur dramatics group associated with a Dorset bus company decide – because their resident writer isn’t keen on pantomime – to put on a stage adaptation of Alien … which is at once a brilliant idea, and not since after a huge, ambitious effort the audience figures aren’t that great in Wimbourne. However, thanks to the enthusiastic interest of filmmakers Danielle Kummer and Lucy Harvey, a plan to is hatched bring the production to London for a one-off performance – which then escalates as the group are offered a slot at the Leicester Square Theatre, just a few doors down from frequent FrightFest venue the Prince Charles. And, to deliver a happy ending, the show is a crowd-pleaser … thanks to a combination of lo-tech but ambitious effects (lots of fishing line is involved) and committed, rather sweet West Country-accented line readings of the familiar script.
A feelgood putting-on-a-show documentary, this comes into the story late-ish so we don’t see anything of the original production but do get a sense of the lively people involved. ‘We’re bus drivers, we’re allowed to mess things up,’ deadpans Tom Skerritt’s replacement – and part of the charm of the show obviously comes from the odd fluffed line or mistimed effect, though it wouldn’t be as funny if the cast were trying to camp it up. Between the performance and production scenes we get a sense of these friends and family members spending their off-hours doing something a bit different – with a bit of emotional wear and tear on director Dave Mitchell, but also a lot of warmth and good humour.
Anyone who’s ever put on a theatrical event of any kind will recognise the problems that this production has to get through – rehearsal spaces locked when they turn up, a set-up time that isn’t really adequate for the scale of what the show wants to pull off, miracles achieved on a budget with scraps, and the occasional sideways glance from folk who don’t understand why anyone would do this. Incidentally, it’s worth noting that the adaptation makes a fair stab at a chest-burster, a decapitated robot and a full-sized alien but writes out Jones the cat as too big a hassle to include.