Alien on Stage, which has just screened as part of Arrow Video FrightFest’s First Blood programming, is an uplifting documentary that will leave you grinning from ear to ear. Made by filmmaking team Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer, the film charts the journey of a group of amateur actors as they take their stage play interpretation of Ridley Scott’s Alien to London’s West End.
The group, known as Paranoid Dramatics, comprise mainly of employees of one of Dorset’s bus companies. Each year, the team performs a pantomime for the locals to raise money for charity, but a few years back they fancied a change and decided to move into the arena of science-fiction horror. The move wasn’t to all the locals’ tastes and the turnout was weaker than they had hoped. It did however, bring them to the attention of our filmmakers who launched a crowd-funding initiative to get them to London. Not wanting to miss a moment, they set about documenting the work to transition the show from community hall to the West End’s Leicester Square Theatre, whilst capturing all the trials, tribulations, and tears along the way.
What Harvey and Kummer capture so well in the film is the group’s warmth, and their bonds of friendship. Several of the cast and crew are related by blood (the writer, director, stage manager, and lead actress), but all of them knit together as their own little community. They also highlight the true David and Goliath task that they had ahead of them. With all of them working different shift patterns and juggling other extra-curricular activities, the time to work on polishing their stage play was limited. What really shines through everything however, is everyone’s enthusiasm (documentary team included) in making the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Throughout the film we meet the cast of players and behind the scenes technicians, and get more of an idea of what exactly has driven them to this crazy endeavour. They’re an eclectic bunch of eccentrics, but it’s hard not to fall in love with all their quirks. These are all hard grafting working-class folks and live to the mantra of work hard, play hard. The coach journey into London ahead of their performance sees the group passing around bottles of Bacardi and Jack Daniels and swigging them neat from the bottles. I’m not sure how many prestigious West End shows partake of the same ritual, but it identifies them as a fun and carefree cluster of people that are here purely for a good time.
It’s not all fun and games though, as once inside the theatre and on a stage, these people are consummate professionals. Their work, particularly that of the effects team, is incredible. They obviously aren’t working with much of a budget, but the ideas that have and things they do to try and emulate the work of Scott is superb. The ingenuity and craftsmanship that goes into every little detail emphasises the passion that these people have, not only for Scott’s work, but also for the theatre itself. With so many theatres experiencing hardships at the moment, it is films such as this that really highlight just how important live shows are. Both sides, audience and creators, get so much joy out of such shared experiences, and this is a shining example of that.
The film culminates in a condensed version of their West End debut, and it plays perfectly. Who knew Alien could be so intentionally funny? The biggest frustration when watching Alien on Stage is that you’ll wish that you could have been there; if you were there you’ll likely want to go back and relive it all over again.
Alien on Stage wears its nerd badge with pride, filmmakers and performers alike imbuing the screen with child-like levels of excitement. It’s an uplifting, charming, and thoroughly enjoyable documentary that will make you fall in love with Alien and the theatre all over again.
Alien on Stage was reviewed at Arrow Video Frightfest Halloween.
Alien on Stage
A film that will make you smile till your cheeks hurt, Alien on Stage is a glorious beacon of light in the current darkness of the world.