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Arrow Video FrightFest October 2020: ‘Alien on Stage’ review

A documentary following a group of bus drivers who put on a stage production of ‘Alien’.

Alien On Stage
Credit: Alien On Stage

‘Alien on Stage’ is a documentary that focuses on employees from the Wiltshire and Dorset Bus Company, whose amateur dramatics group decided to switch things up for their annual production. Instead of wheeling out another pantomime, the group decided to do a stage adaptation of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic ‘Alien’. When they staged it, it was a huge flop but when an opportunity to perform the show at London’s Leicester Square Theatre presents itself, the group pulls up its socks and sets to work.

In the documentary we get to see the lead-up to the original production, and the disappointment felt by the cast and crew when it bombs. It then moves on to staging the show in London, which proves to be hilarious and actually quite sweet. From very early on it’s very clear that the production is way bigger than the group is used to putting on, and it’s a bit of a family affair with the director, lead actor and script writer all being related. There are plenty of scenes of the cast struggling through their lines, in large part due to not taking the whole thing very seriously.

Once they visit the theatre in London, things become a bit more real and you can see the panic set in. A last-minute scramble to get sets and special effects ready, and for the actors to learn their lines begins, and against all odds the show sells out. The second half of the documentary shows plenty of footage from the performance as a packed audience laughs, whoops and hollers all the way through it. At times it’s hard to figure out if the cast understand that the show is so bad it’s good or if they genuinely think they’re doing a great job.

Alien On Stage
Credit: Alien On Stage

What really stands out though, despite the dodgy acting, is just how much effort the group puts into making the production happen. On a shoe string budget they pull off some impressive effects, costumes and sets, and actually by the time the curtain call arrives, the documentary is surprisingly emotional. It’s a classic underdog story about a group of people with the best of intentions rallying together to raise some money for charity so regardless of how painful the production itself is, you can’t fault the sentiment behind it.

‘Alien on Stage’ is one of the surprises of Arrow Video FrightFest. It’s full of heart and it’s a testament to what willpower and belief can achieve. Sure the end result is accidentally hilarious but you’ll get to the credits and feel very proud of these well-meaning people that didn’t know 86 minutes earlier. Who doesn’t need a feel good story after a shitshow of a year?

Cast: Employees from the Wiltshire and Dorset Bus Company Directors: Danielle Kummer & Lucy Harvey Certificate: 18 Duration: 86 mins Released by: Alien on Stage Documentary

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