Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Moon Quest - King's Arms Theatre, Salford

John Waterhouse's latest comedy, Moon Quest, produced by Casagua Productions, transports us back to the future. Back, as in a retrospectively affectionate Mickey-take of all those terrible but highly amusing sci-fi B-movies of the 60s and even 70s, where sexy young ladies would romp around in tight-fitting bodysuits, high-heeled boots and the word sexism had simply not yet been invented. [think 'Barbarella']. Future as in the narrative of this particular story is set on one of Mars's three moons, and so humankind has obviously advanced enough to be able to have developed the technology to transport a space-craft so far.  [Mars's third moon has been only for a short time known to Earth, and is still not visible from Earth]

There is life on all three moons and they are constantly waging war with each other - although we do find out that these wars are fabricated by the respective governments as a way of control. [where have I come across that idea before??!], and that, very conveniently, the atmosphere and landscape on Curio (the third moon) as well as the language of the Curians is the same as Earth and English.

A spaceship crash-lands on Curio, a solo female being it's only crew, her name Gabi. (Christina Sedgwick). She is immediately captured by the Curians to be interrogated. During her interrogation she mentions the name Steve Morris, the astronaut who had come on a reconnaissance mission some time prior to this and was believed to have died. The name strikes fear into the Curians. The guard, Lighcra (Magdalena Urbaniak) given responsibility of interrogating Gabi further is herself no more than a prisoner of the Curians; as she is from the moon Dubio - and missing a joke completely by not calling them Dubious - she plans to escape with Gabi.

They fall foul to a rebel group on the fringes of society, led by the sexy would-be dominatrix Nubia (Stacey Coleman). It is in this rebel shanty that Steve Morris (Paul Worrall) has made his home. Affecting an American accent and making up tales of heroism, he is the smooth-talking 'cool cat', revered by all.

However the Curians are hot on their trail, and so devise a devilish plan to go back to the Curian city, infiltrate their dogma TV  studios, wreak havoc, and make good their escape. I am uncertain if this actually made sense watching it let alone typing it now - but it is sci-fi, and full of completely ludicrous and improbable scenarios!

The play ran for 90 minutes straight through without interval, and due to perhaps both lack of budget and restrictions of the venue, props were minimal and entrances and exits were stilted, being made every time from either side of a black curtain at the rear of the stage. One of the actors due to play the role of Curian leader was also sadly unavailable to play the part and so we were treated to a very mock-Shakespearean commanding delivery of the part by director Ian Ralph.

The production as it stands at the moment needs a lot of work doing to it before it can lift its head out of the 'Fringe' tag, but I do believe that with a proper, realistic budget, and perhaps another re-write, Moon Quest could find more than just a niche audience of retro sci-fi geeks, and do just that! Just so long as it doesn't take itself so seriously, as it did this evening. A more tongue-in-cheek approach - a little aside nod to the audience every now and again to say, 'yeah, I know!'.  This was half-attempted this evening, and somehow fell flat since the characterisations were in general far too worthy. Worrall was the only one who pitched his role absolutely on the button - an ironic mockery of himself.  (yeah, baby, yeah!) That is not to say the other cast were poor - far from it - but they didn't find that self-effacing comedy skill of parodying oneself, like for example, in the Austin Powers film.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 9/7/18

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