By Michael Dennis.
Trafalgar Studio 2, 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY to 3 August 2019.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hrs 15mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7321 5400
Review: William Russell 28 June.
A journey to inner space
The worlds of the fan, and of the television star, whose fame rests on being in series like Star Trek or Emmerdale and whose career is now on the slide but their face is still famous, as well as the nature of friendship are all examined in this frequently very funny first play. It is possible a shade too long, and the decision to frame it with appearances by characters from the sci fi series and use the voiceover role for the inevitable robot computer, while spoken rather well by Mark Gatiss, oddly doesn’t add all that much to the story. The points have already been made in the play itself, which was inspired by the playwright’s own fan life besotted by a Thames Television space show called Dark Sublime which apparently ran from 1979 to 1981 and was not a mile removed from the likes of Star Trek in the days of Kirk with the rug and all the rest of the crew.
The star, Marianne, a terrific performance by Marina Sirtis, is well aware it was all long ago, that she has done other things, played the classic roles, and yet realises this was the one that made her a name and, well, it is a free weekend in Walsall so why not go when she is invited by Oli, played by Kwanku Mills, a twitchy young man who works in a bookshop, is gay, lonely and lives his life through the show who has set up the weekend. The thing is she breaks the first rule of stardom. Do not make friends with fans. Know them, but they have their place and it is at arm’s length not part of your life.
It causes a row with her best friend, Kate, Jacqueline King, a down to earth lesbian, which escalates when Kate introduces a new girlfriend. It is possible that in the distant past they two women may have indulged in more than a cuddle, but basically they are bosom friends, the sort of people who have each other’s door keys and see each other all the time. Marianne is jealous and furious when Kate refuses to come to the fan convention, and says the unspeakable when she discovers the reason – Kate is going away with her new love, Suzanne, a chilly banker played to perfection by Sophie Ward.
How it all works out is entertaining – Dennis has come up with a witty script – and the play takes a moving look at the complex nature of friendship and how lonely people survive. Both Marina and Oli are lonely, outsiders and for a moment grasp at the possibility that this is the new friend they have been seeking, the anchor to their lives. Simon Thorp has the task of playing the man from space who erupts on the scene from time to time and does so with panache, revealing, when at the convention as the actor who played him, the face of a man, every bit as much as Marina, who knows his glory days are over.
All you need to know about the series that made Marianne a star – Dark Sublime – is contained in a programme note which rings remarkably true.
Kate: Jacqueline King.
Marianne: Marina Sirtis.
Oli: Kwanku Mills.
Vykor/Bob: Simon Thorp.
The Voice of Hosley: Mark Gatiss.
Suzanne: Sophie Ward.
Director: Andrew Keates.
Set & Costume: Tim McQuillen-Wright.
Lighting Designer: Neill Brinkworth.
Composer: Matthew Strachen.
Sound Designer: Sarah Wellman.
Production photography: Scott Rylander.