Review by Katrina Chan
Shakespeare Aliens is an entertaining melodrama featuring a feminist hero triumphing over the Queen of the Xenomorphs in deep space. The play is a re-imagination of James Cameron’s 1986 science fiction action film, Aliens, in William Shakespeare’s style. Done in an exaggerated and cheesy way, they showcased Shakespeare Aliens at Theatre Works in the Melbourne Fringe Show. It was directed by Rob Lloyd (Who Me, The Mighty Little Puppet Show) and written by Keith Gow (Sonnigsburg, Like A House on Fire)
Out of all the actors, Seon William stood out with her portrayal of Vasquez. She was present throughout the entirety of the play with genuine emotions and urgency. Her gestures and accents were in sync with the Colonial Marines. She had strong vocal projection and articulation, even when she was doing pushups. She gave off a badass, cool and edgy vibe, and her acting was the most consistent. For Zac Rose as Sergeant Apone, although his appearance was brief, his comedic performance was memorable. He was natural and had a good pace and range in his voice. Danny McGinlay was successful at playing Burke, a sly company man. Cassandra Hart’s performance as Ripley, the main character, was a little flat. There could be more emotional development following the storyline. Her mechanic movement was quite realistic though.
Donna Prince was the mastermind for the construction of the Aliens, creature-like puppets that were animated by puppeteers Alex Joy, Lauren Kemp and Lana Schwarcz. The puppets looked like Xenomorphs with large, curved, oblong heads. 4 people controlled the Queen with 1 for the tail, 2 for the hands, and 1 for the head. The puppeteers wielded their hands, arms, and control devices to bring the aliens alive. The first time the alien burst out of the actor’s stomach was unexpected. It was surprising and done to great effect. The puppeteers and actors used the stage economically during the fighting scenes. I also liked the choice of changing scenes with riding the plane or car movements.
Keith Gow was the writer of Shakespeare Aliens. The narrator characters, Newt and Vasquez, were given monologues to establish the play’s setting and advance the plot. However, it felt a bit contrived sometimes. Bishop, the artificial intelligence, had some witty lines delivered by Rik Brown - “one must embrace the cliche” and “If this is the last sight I see, not bad, for humans.” Keith paid homage to the iconic moments of the original film with Ripley's famous line, ‘Get away from her, you bitch.’ It might be interactive and engaging for people who watched the film. Do not expect this play to be a serious Shakespearean interpretation. I think the dialogue was intentionally silly and cheesy. However, without much depth, it did seem like a gimmick to use Shakespeare and Aliens as the play’s title.
Projection lighting and projection operator, Patrick Slee, purposely used stock-like photos and 3D models of the spaceship to immerse the audience into the story. The zoom-in on the spaceship and low-pixel photo of Ripley’s daughter was funny. Lighting and sound cues were mostly smooth, with occasional delays. In the scene where Burke died, Patrick split the stage in half. There was a spotlight on Burke laughing while other crew members were fighting in slow motion in the dark, which was interesting to watch. I also liked that the whole venue lit up when the grenade exploded.
The atmospheric sound design by Sandro Falce was appropriate for setting up the scene and helping to push the story forward. Some of the sounds seemed like they were from the movie. Occasionally there would be other elements, like drum rolls in the final duet battle between Ripley and Queen Alien, and flute music at the end which signified hope.
Overall, Shakespeare Aliens was a bizarre play, ambitious to meld sci-fi with Shakespeare's style. It is a funny and silly play if you are looking for something light. You will be able to enjoy the play if you don’t take it too seriously and literally. Catch it on October 14-15 at Melbourne Fringe Festival.