NOTE: Here is my review from Soda & Telepaths that was posted back on August 4, 2021
Every year, a group of bus drivers from Dorset who are part of an amateur dramatics group put together a show for charity. Most years the show is a pantomime, something big and silly that can entertain the whole family but one year this little group decides to try something a little different… Specifically, they decide to take the movie Alien and present it as a stage play. Surely that’ll go smoothly.
Premiering Alien On Stage in their little amateur theatre, the show only reaches a small audience of around 20 people and is considered a flop (so… it did not go smoothly). Of course, somewhere in that audience is someone who sees the potential of this strange little show and makes this amateur troupe an offer to put their production in the Leicester Square Theatre on the West End. The question is, will their little show turn out to be a hit when put on one of the biggest stages in London?
Alien On Stage is nothing short of a love letter to the arts, a 90-minute ride showing just what a little creativity and a lot of luck can make happen. From the lows of the early rehearsals where no one knows their lines and the sets can’t seem to stand up straight to the highs of the one-night engagement in a legitimate theatre, we follow this collective of crazy creatives through it all in a fly-on-the-wall style of filmmaking.
The first hour of Alien On Stage is dedicated to the actual story of how they went from their little amateur stage to the Leicester theatre, detailing it with quick little interviews sometimes done while the actors are driving their usual bus routes. There’s an undeniable charm to everyone involved, almost letting the audience feel like they’re sitting in the hall with the cast having a tea and biscuit while they go over their lines. It barely takes a minute before you’re rooting for the entire cast to make this little play work.
The final half-hour is where they finally let us get a good idea of just what this has been building up to, a lengthy montage of the entire play that shows the brilliant high camp joy that has been created. Alien On Stage just builds and builds, letting you worry that anything could go wrong and when you finally see what they’ve spent months rehearsing it’s nothing short of glorious. Everything from seeing how they come up with the Alien costume on the cheap to figuring out how to pull off the big effects shots on a stage is shown and the glorious cheapness of it makes it hilarious and heartwarming.
Every minute of Alien On Stage is just brimming with joy and, despite how corny this sounds, love. Love of performing, love of the theatre, love of getting to create in general. One viewing of Alien On Stage and you’ll want to mount an amateur production of your own just to know the joyful rush that this sweet and fantastic troupe did. It’s almost impossible to have any other reaction to Alien On Stage than a charmed whimsical smile because everything about this story is just so… well, charming.
The entire cast and crew of this little troupe are some of the sweetest people you’ll get to spend 90 minutes with, just joining in on them laughing and working together to create a show is a ton of fun. Watching them running around backstage during the big show or sneaking off for a quick smoke break when they should be rehearsing, every moment feels inviting (and if you’ve ever been part of an amateur production of anything, it will bring the memories flooding back).
Alien On Stage is not just a story about a bunch of amateur performers managing to live a dream by performing on the west end, but also just about creativity and perseverance. It’s a pure joy from start to finish, seeing this when you can should be the new priority one. All other priorities rescinded.