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SXSW 2021

SXSW 2021 Movie Review: “Alien on Stage” Waves Its Nerd Flag High With a Low-Budget Rendition of the Sci-Fi Classic

By: Dakota Arsenault

As someone who grew up in community theatre, there is a charm to the imperfection. Budgets are limited, actors are untrained, crew members have day jobs and of course you don’t actually get paid. People do community theatre because they love it. They love coming together as a group and creating something that is normally reserved for Sunday school groups or for people who devote their lives to it with almost nothing in between. Alien on Stage the Documentary shows how a group of bus drivers from Dorset, England come together every year to put on a play in their local community centre to help raise money for charity. They usually do pantomimes, an interactive production usually targeted towards children with fairy tales or nursery rhymes being the foundation. Instead of doing yet another pantomime, the group decides to do something more risky, write and adapt their own version of the classic SciFi/Horror movie Alien from 1979 directed by Ridley Scott.

Directors Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer actually had nothing to do with the mounting of the play, but instead are Alien super fans and accidentally found out about the production and decided to come up from London to check it out and bring a small group of people with them. Realizing that the play is pure camp, yet surprisingly faithfully reconstructed they manage to convince a theatre in London’s famous West End to mount the show for one night only.

This is where the two worlds collide in the film as we get plenty of back story like Luc who was told he would never be a writer decided to adapt one of his favourite movies. We get David Mitchell, who is the director struggling to keep the actors focused and who often forget their lines and his wife Lydia Haywward who plays the title heroine Ripley as originally portrayed by Sigourney Weaver. David’s father makes the super impressive sets and Pete who designed the costumes from scratch, including a life sized xenomorph suit with articulating tail and space suits utilizing 3M cotton coveralls.

As the group prepares for the West End debut nerves are rankled and tension rises. But in the end the show goes off with nary a hitch, the crowd of diehard Alien fans that sold out the theatre laughing as the exact recreations of such iconic moments like the face hugger jumping out of the egg onto Kane’s face (done by using fishing line), the chest bursting on the dining table splattering the crew with blood and even Dallas crawling through the vents only to meet his doom. With the rise of plays like the Evil Dead musical or the continued popularity of Rocky Horror Picture Show, that gives fans a reason to laugh at the scares in the most uplifting way possible Alien on Stage was ripe to be a success. You can’t help but root for the bus drivers as they break character due to the audience cheering them on so enthusiastically mid-scene. It all culminates with the ex-military tough guy director David thanking the crowd at the end and tearing up to their standing ovation.

I’ve missed a lot of things while being stuck inside from this pandemic, but the live atmosphere of a theatre crowd and an electric production might be at the top of the list.

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