A bespectacled scientist stumbles onto the stage and introduces a celebrity hypnotist; it all spirals out of control, chaos ensues, a man ends up dead, setting the tone nicely for an evening of surrealism and absurdism. Blast Off, described as 'the galaxy's only science-fiction theatre night' in the intimate setting of Soho Theatre, was a collection of six short plays all related in some way (some more than others) to Science Fiction. I must admit I had some trepidation about going to a 'Sci-Fi' themed evening as I feared many of the jokes might go over my head, ruthlessly exposing my lack of knowledge in such matters. And indeed, after Jon Brittain's opening gambit I feared this might the case. The first few jokes were decisive to say the least; half the room laughed raucously and the other half shuffled nervously in their seats. However, sensing the split in the room, he quickly moved to allay our fears and introduced what turned out to be a fun, accessible evening of comedy theatre.
The evening continued its strong start with 'Three Men in a Shuttle' by Simon Anderson. Sam Swann and Ciaran Owens were immediately likeable as a pair of squabbling brothers who are approaching the end of the world we know with something akin to bonhomie. The concept was original; the script was tightly written and James Fynan excels as the 'humanoid' guiding the hapless brothers on their journey to Earth Mk. 2.
Weak points were few and far between but perhaps Joshua Conkel's 'Up With (Some) People' failed to translate effectively across the Atlantic. Some cultural references seemed less pertinent to a British audience and a few of the jokes failed to land. In addition to this, 'The Martian Cabaret' whilst being a relatively funny premise felt less like a short play and more like an extended sketch that somewhat overran.
Undoubtedly, a highlight of the evening was John Luke Roberts in 'Alan Bennett in Space'. His impeccably observed impression, combined with a hilarious script (that Roberts himself wrote) was one of the highlights of the evening. The absurd juxtaposition of Alan Bennett and Science Fiction proved to be very, very funny indeed. Widespread laughter filled the room as 'Alan Bennett' read out the titles the of sci-fi novels he'd written since his time as writer in residence on the moon. This was swiftly followed by a bizarre tale about sending the Queen away in an escape pod which served to add fuel to the comedic fire. Roberts is undoubtedly talented as both a writer and an actor and is definitely one to watch in the future.
The play of the evening that I was most excited about seeing was 'Just the Few of Us' penned by rising star in comedy circles, Sara Pascoe. Being a fan of her stand up and her numerous appearances in several sitcoms, (The Thick of It, Being Human, etc) I was interested to see Sara turn her hand to playwriting. And as it transpired, 'Just the Few of Us' didn't disappoint. The play is set in a post apocalyptic world where a man and all his ex-girlfriends are the sole survivors on earth. As he debates with himself between whether this is a dream or a nightmare, he suddenly figures out the link between all of them. Just as he reaches the crescendo of a messianic complex, he's brought clattering back down to earth with an immortal final line about doing something unmentionable with a dog. Cariad Lloyd is hilarious as the promiscuous ex-girlfriend insistent on pro-creating much to the annoyance of his jealous and threatened girlfriend, played to perfection by Margaret Cabourne Smith.
All in all, Blast Off lived up to the promise and I sincerely hope it returns to the stage before long. You could say the evening went with a (big) bang. Eurgh -excuse the pun- I hate myself.
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