Mankind’s maiden moon landing has been the talk of conspiracy theory debates across the planet for decades. From technological oddities to Earth-like images, the sceptics have it all. It’s now fifty years since Neil Armstrong took those famous first steps and so, whatever your stance, it’s certainly a befitting time for some theatre about arguably NASA’s greatest feat.
Set in sixties America, Apollo: Take 111 is centred around government worker Stewart James, who’s lumbered with the duty of landing men on the moon. For once, it actually is rocket science, leaving Stewart with no other choice than to sort some cheesy astro-footage. It’s been co-directed by the somewhat unknown duo of Tom Proffitt and Joe Strickland with the script also coming from the former.
“Like watching a Compare the Meerkat advert without the whiskers”
Whilst the company has clearly worked hard on the production, it’s easily disparaged. First off, the narrative is incredibly onerous to follow, and this is only exacerbated by the shoddy introduction of pretty much every character. To add to this, the actors continuously override each other’s lines, so if you’re already struggling to suss out what’s happening, you’ve no chance after such moments. Worst of all, however, is the way that the actors hold themselves in the wide-open wings. Instead of just facing the stage naturally, the actors generally attempt to hide themselves by either coiling their bodies or turning towards the wall, the latter of which looks like an extended urination; it might be done with good intent, but I doubt I’ll ever see anything more amateurish in a theatrical performance.
Weaknesses aside, there are a few aspects the creative team should be commended for. Largely aided by Proffitt’s writing, substantial parts of the production are hilarious; there are witty remarks, chucklesome slapstick and as for the Russian spies, it’s like watching a Compare the Meerkat advert without the whiskers. These elements in addition to the cardboard set and scripted mistakes make the show seem quite naff, which to some might be a downside but for me adds considerable lightheartedness.
Regarding the acting, a criticism of all the performers is the constant shouty approach to anger; it’s hardly pleasant on the ears, and if I’m being honest, a bit like watching a GCSE examination. Additionally, Morven Cameron’s below-par showing is there for all to see; she’s very uneasy as Stewart’s wife, Wendy, and when she later takes on the role of actor Roaling Leigh, her American accent slips. Despite this, there is Alex Levy’s greatly exuberant Big Boss, who sets the show alight with just minutes gone. As both Stewart and Soviet agent Vladimir, Carn Truscott also showcases glimpses of brilliance in terms of his vocal delivery and comic timing.
From what I’ve seen, there’s undoubtedly some great potential amongst the company even if they’re all too raw at the moment. Ed Fringe is a small step for some, but for Strickland Productions, it’s been too giant of a leap.
Apollo: Take 111 finished its run at Zoo Southside – Studio on 26th August.