From the moment we were ushered in unceremoniously, my experience of watching We Are Not Alone left me less curious for what lurks out there in space, and more confused about what on earth was going on at the Hen & Chickens. I’m normally as game as anyone to ponder questions of extra-terrestrial life, but I’m not sure this interactive play stirred my imagination sufficiently.
Set out as a workshop for humans about to encounter alien life, We Are Not Alone immediately breaks the fourth wall and demands input from its audience – who exactly this is meant to be, is unclear. At first, I thought it really a play for a younger audience, and indeed perhaps a younger audience would appreciate it better than I. But with occasional references to adult themes (e.g. a mother with dementia, and exploring strange sex practices of bees, etc.), I was left a little confused. Who is this play for?
My main concern was the scattered quality of the plot (of which, there isn’t a whole lot). We jump from a rather straightforwardly informative presentation to scenes between random friends and family members, characters who are unclear at best, which form the ‘serious moments’ of the play. I was waiting for these moments to build towards something; they didn’t really. Regardless, there are certainly points of directness, honesty and humour within these. It’s a shame there weren’t more of them.
It would be great – just once in a while – for this kind of play to be delivered straight up: a good story, cohesively told, without demanding the audience provide a bulk of the content. There are great examples of ‘non-traditional’ storytelling in the Camden Fringe schedule, however, a need to draw on audience interactivity is becoming a trend amongst emerging playwrights that I am starting to find disturbingly common. Humour that relies on audience input is always risky, and in my particular viewing, the risk didn’t quite pay off. There is room to suggest this may not always be so (should you try We Are Not Alone on a different night), however, our key players in the form of Captain Sam Reynolds (Anna Ruben) and Dr Alex Parker (Sean Joseph Young), seemed almost too casual with the material – they left a lot of room for floundering, and awkward silences from the audience. Lines were forgotten, and not so smoothly concealed. Ad-libbed moments felt tough.
At its heart, Kate Webster’s We Are Not Alone has a good message, one that cannot be faulted. A light-hearted spirit is essential, but the audience aren’t enticed into one – we are thrown into things a bit too quickly, as a little context might have eased this. Younger audiences are not immune from detecting a cohesive plot. Non-traditional storytelling doesn’t exempt a production from telling a good story. Ultimately, despite the various amusing earthly insights of this play, I was left searching for something more…
Review by Christina Calgaro
The near future: to prepare for imminent alien arrival on Earth, citizens are required to attend today’s workshop. It’s led by astrobiologist Dr Alex Parker and military specialist Captain Reynolds – to Alex, encountering a new life form is an amazing adventure, but to Reynolds, it’s an unspecified threat.
We know nothing about the aliens and all they know about us is the information attached to space probe Voyager on the Golden Record, produced in 1977. Things have changed quite a lot since then….
Hen & Chickens Theatre
109 St Paul’s Road
London N1 2NA