Fantasia Festival: Alien On Stage (2021)

 Lucy Harvey, Danielle Kummer

Running Time: 86 Minutes

Of all the terms to associate with 1979's Alien, "pantomime" wouldn't be high on anyone's list. Despite this, an amateur-dramatics group of Dorset bus drivers chose for their next production a homemade adaptation of the Sigourney Weaver starrer.

Taking a feature film with an $11 million budget and bringing it to stage with substantially less money must've been daunting, although that just encouraged creativity. There's an impressive breakdown of the props, what went into making them, and the difficulties faced to realise them on-stage. These DIY alternatives are bursting with ingenuity, though the most impressive creation is the Xenomorph itself. A poor adaptation of this icon could've sunk the production, so thankfully it's brought alive with such inventiveness and hard work.

An interesting trick is how rehearsals are intercut with behind-the-scenes footage, effectively showcasing the cast's progression. One charming moment sees them learning their lines through a neat trick, reciting them at a DVD recording of their rehearsal. Their shared joy is a potent reminder that, no matter how iconic a film they're adapting, these are friends and family who just want to have a good time.

The casts nerves are replicated well as showtime draws closer, with setbacks weighing on the performers. When the time comes, viewers are treated to see key parts of the play, and it's an absolute treasure to behold. Humorous inclusions are welcomed with open arms by the live audience, such as the obvious change of actors for Ash's decapitation. The best moments are undoubtedly when key-scenes are recreated, and the rapturous cheers are infectious.

The directorial debut of Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer, the pair add eye-catching flourishes to this down to earth tale, such as the lovely homages to Ridley Scott's classic and the Xenomorph's appearances being shown through their point-of-view. When so much effort's gone into this little production, their struggle to attract an audience back home is disheartening to watch. That thankfully changes when they get the opportunity to perform at London's Leicester Square theatre.

It's clear how stunned the cast are, going from a small show which sold 20 tickets to a sold-out performance at the West End, though it was never about that for them. These bus drivers wanted to raise money for charity, and went above and beyond for this production. When they've put such inspiring effort into this wonderful experience, it's easy to share in the groups joy. A feel-good time every Alien fan should watch.

Alien On Stage had its Quebec Premiere at Fantasia Festival 2021, and is available On Demand