Featured image: The alien bows on stage after Alien on Stage. (Courtesy of Alien on Stage.)
Directed by Lucy Harvey, Danielle Kummer. Starring (as self) Jason Hill, Lydia Hayward, Jacqui Roe. Runtime 1h 26 min. Alien on Stage had its latest festival stop as part of the Nightstream Film Festival.
Some spoilers follow.
Alien on Stage is the type of film I needed today; a feel-good story about a group of Dorset bus drivers who spend a year creating a stage adaptation of Ridley Scott’s Alien. They’re first-time actors, where they use budget effects and monster design. It’s not supposed to work this well, but it really does. The amateur theatre group usually puts on productions of Robin Hood for pantomime theatre, but they wanted to try something different.
It’s cool learning the cast’s experience with the film, as the stage production’s writer, Luke, says he’d watch Alien with his mom when he was a kid. His mom, Lydia Hayward, also happens to be playing Ripley in the production. On the flip side, some others in the production aren’t super sci-fi fans and have only watched the film once.
The film definitely could have had more scenes of getting to know the actors a bit more and that could be a drawback for some. Directors Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer instead decide to solely focus on the production, and I think it works for this documentary because it’s ultra-focused and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
The stage production is all impressively put together, from FX guy Pete’s work on the cryochamber, to the titular Alien, to how they stage the chest burster scene, and many more scenes that are good for a laugh. It’s all so cool and charming to see how they depict these moments, and the wait for the chest burster scene is well worth it. It’s also such an interesting production because it’s written rather straight, with dry British humour and a bunch of extra uses of “bitch” from Ripley for good measure. It’s the awkward acting that makes it hilarious and that’s the charm of Alien on Stage.
As well, it’s so inspiring seeing where they’re able to take this amateur play, and play in the Leicester Square Theatre in the West End for 400 people. It feels like a Midnight Madness audience, as everyone who shows up to watch the production loves Alien. There are a lot of laughs in the film, and the audience in the film makes the laughter contagious for us audience members at home.
We don’t feel left out of the film, either, since most of the second half of this documentary is seeing the play, or at least the highlights of it and the major beats from Alien. Perhaps most effective about Alien on Stage is that I never thought, “Man, I’d rather just watch Alien instead.” The documentary instead makes me want to revisit the original film, as it’s obvious these actors love the film and do things accurately. It does make me wonder what magic they could create with Aliens, and what they could do with some of those props.