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INVASION! An Alien Musical at Camden People’s Theatre

Marks for eccentricity in a show that somehow manages to be as realistic as much as it is absurd – the Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society (CUMTS to their fans and followers, an acronym which must surely be deliberately mispronounced from time to time) presented the musical Six at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, which proved so successful they returned to the Fringe in 2018, and now (at the time of writing) has productions in the West End, on tour, on Broadway, and in South Korea, with further productions in the pipeline in Canada, Hungary, and Poland.

INVASION! An Alien Musical - Photo credit Charlotte Dargan.
INVASION! An Alien Musical – Photo credit Charlotte Dargan.

INVASION! the upper case and the exclamation mark are apparently important: after all, Invasion doesn’t quite have the same sense of urgency and (dramatic) alarm about it – might have had some clever lyrics, if only they could be heard properly. The music was far from earsplittingly loud, and composer Lily Blundell does well at the keyboard, but there was still an imbalance between amplified music and sounds and unamplified voices. Taking into consideration the borderline breakneck speed of some of the musical numbers, as well as the songs quite rightly advancing the narrative, not quite being able to fully decipher each and every lyric was, to say the least, a tad frustrating.

Be that as it may, there are some fine voices in the cast – Kate South’s Hackett, given the chance to shine in the show’s eleven o’clock number, has a crowd-pleasing big note belt, Gregory Miller’s Jack Lotus is a suitably authoritative antagonist (well, until such time as the storyline dictates otherwise) and the six-strong company harmonise gloriously in the ensemble songs. A common problem in student productions is that everyone is in the same age bracket (that is, young with a capital Y). Here, the audience knows Brian (Nathan Gilpin) is the stepfather of Johnny (Jamie Ellis) because we were informed accordingly, with almost the same regularity as the automated announcements on the London Underground telling passengers what the train’s destination is.

Some things in this show are entirely believable – for instance, a Prime Minister who leads a Government that “should not, will not and cannot” be of any meaningful use – and utterly ridiculous all at once, as it is a Government with the guts to admit their ineffectiveness. I wondered, even before seeing the show, if aliens were to invade, whether they would take one look at the planet and take off again as quickly as they arrived. Perhaps, if there is to be a takeaway message from a bonkers production of this nature, this world still has a lot going for it.

Jack’s command over company employees indicates how relatively easy it is to get sucked into coercive control, even in a workplace setting. The show cleverly and subtly asserts there is more to life than seeking a promotion and climbing the organisational ladder – irrespective of whether there’s an alien invasion in progress. One of the more tech-heavy offerings at this year’s Camden Fringe, with pushing and pulling of set and props, still and moving projected images, live music and various costume changes, it’s an ambitious project, and fun to watch. A pity, then, that it was more difficult to follow on the night than it should have been because, at least from my vantage point, a few too many lyrics were drowned out by the accompanying music.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Johnny Fox thought adult life would be wonderful. Instead, he’s living with his hapless uncle Brian, under fire from despotic boss Hackett, and facing a lifetime working for Lotus Land. But upon the arrival of the mysterious Sola, Johnny and Brian discover that Britain’s most magical theme park hides a sinister secret: it’s run by alien invaders!

Thrust on a madcap adventure beneath the park, Johnny discovers the severed head of their founder still alive and pulling the strings, while Uncle Brian and Sola are held captive by an unhinged general and the corrupt Prime Minister.

But what do the alien Lotus want? Who is Sola? And can Johnny and Brian prove their worth and save the Earth before it’s too late? Join us for a toe-tapping rollercoaster of courage, class and conspiracy to find out!

INVASION! An Alien Musical
Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society
Camden Fringe – 31st July 2023 to 27th August 2023.

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