By Chris Hosking

When all the world’s a stage, (serious stuff), and visiting the theatre is via Covid-safe attendance and government allowed density limits, (more seriousness), perhaps a good dose of humour and silliness is exactly what is needed for a 2022 theatre outing.  Good news for audiences that enjoy chuckling along to a hybrid of pop culture sci-fi culty goodness and Shakespearean affectation, because TheatreWorks is playing host to Rob Lloyd’s production of Shakespeare Aliens.

Don’t over think what the show might be, as it’s exactly what the title suggests.  A staged version of James Cameron’s Aliens, complete with puppetry for face-huggers and xenomorphs, with Shakespearean references then sprinkled liberally.

The production, previously intended for Fringe, is showing as part of TheatreWorks’ wonderful Mulletfest (as in the opposite of fringe).  The fringey-ness is on full display here: it’s a short show, clocking in at under 55 minutes, and it’s designed to capture attention with its conceit and appeal to please a wide audience.

The show delivers on its promise – it is indeed 55 minutes of Aliens dialogue and plotline with a litany of rhyming couplets.  That said, audience go-ers may find themselves feeling robbed of what could have been a more dynamic, polished, or amusing production.  While the show invokes a single moment of panto-esque engagement, there’s limited fourth-wall fun beyond knowing winks, and bizarrely no attempts at pulpy fun with stage choreo, or props or theatre effects.

There has been clear attention in the creation of the puppets here (kudos to designer Donna Prince), which are pretty wonderful, as well as the script, (from Keith Gow) but the acting and direction have not had the same focus.  The result is uneasy half-jokey, half-earnest performances with no live wire of comedic timing, nor hilarity in the absurd staging of something wildly un-stageable.

When Cassandra Hart’s Ripley emerges for the first time wearing a cardboard P-5000 Power Loader, why not absolutely nail the pop and lock of mechanism?  Why not nail timing and sound effects to be pitch perfect?  It’s symptomatic of the show, it too often thinks that approximating Aliens to the point it’s recognisable, and delivering a half-smile inducing combination of famous Shakespeare quotes and Aliens dialogue is enough to get the job done.

However, in (the middle of?) a pandemic, we’ve all strayed from perfection.  If we can learn to be okay with silly government antics playing politics with lives, and endless sweat-pants and any covid-gained weight, maybe we can learn to just let an hour-long fringe show be some simple fun.  We certainly need it.

Image Fabrizio Evans