Science fiction rarely treads the boards, with the exception of a certain Spiderman musical, which ended in disaster with four major accidents. So Misshapen Theatre’s Blast Off at the Soho Theatre is a welcome change. Luckily without any webs and spiders.
Blast Off is a collection of short theatre pieces written by various upcoming writing talents in London. The show opens with A Live Presentation by Dr Rothstatter on S.S.O.M.C.A.T written by Gabriel Bisset-Smith, and is a sketch with hypnotists on how they can affect people’s minds. The sketch is directed at the audience and a girl is picked out from the seats as a volunteer – an actor, of course – and the madness commences as actress Ursula Early is made to pretend to be chicken, Hamlet, to speak French, weep, sing and end as an evil spirit. Early is hilarious and full of energy and, together with Matt Spencer who plays the painfully geeky Simon Smith, they redirect the sketch from a bit of dusty acting and playing for laughs into something that is actually genuinely funny.
Jon Brittain takes over and introduces the night of sci-fi with a promise of geeky encounters on stage. Jokes about the new Spider Man make the audience giggle and, despite Brittain being nervous, we are launched into the rest of the night with a hope of sci-fi humour.
The Story of the Cryogenically Frozen Humanoid and the Impending Hen Party (or the Martian Cabaret) – even the title makes you out of breath – is a bit cringy, as the actors seem to have lost faith in what they are doing. There are a few funny moments as they all cross-dress and sing about life on Mars, but the sketch is staggering between a good laugh and a high school nativity play. The rest of the short sketches continue with funny moments, but the writing is either a bit dull or clouded by rusty acting.
However, everything is forgotten as the night ends with Just the Few of Us by Sara Pascoe. A couple think they’re the last people on Earth after a virus has killed everyone. Joel (Brett Goldstein) is left with his hysterical girlfriend (Margaret Cabourne Smith) who weeps for her dying pets and their messed-up relationship. All changes when Joel’s ex-girlfriend (brilliant Cariad Lloyd) appears with the revelation that all of Joel’s ex-girlfriends are alive. Joel is left to face the horrid fact that his sperm makes his women immune to the virus and he has to save humanity from extinction. That, and living with all his exes. The writing is fast-paced, inventive and funny, and the cast do it justice and enthral the audience. No wonder this piece got the most applause.
Blast Off made a lot of promises but rarely delivered. The collection of pieces seemed more like a showcase for nervous drama school graduates launching themselves into the business, and though it had very funny moments and a Comedy Central twang, it never really lifted the roof as a whole performance. But I would gladly go back just to watch Sara Pascoe’s piece and Brett Goldstein’s frustration.
Blast Off ran at the Soho Theatre on 10 July. For information about what’s on at the Soho Theatre, visit the website.