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Fanatical a sci-fi convention musical at The Playground Theatre

FanaticalThe famed composer and conductor John Williams once misspoke, getting Star Wars mixed up with Star Trek (or was it the other way around?). For people like me who do not possess anything more than a general interest in either ‘space opera media franchise’ (I’m quoting the Wikipedia entries for both shows), it is an easy enough mistake to make, and entirely forgivable. Not so for some ardent fans and followers of science fiction, an indication of the level of the passion they have for their genre.

To that end, Fanatical could, be rather more, well, fanatical: there’s the odd lyric acknowledging Scott Furnish (Stephen Frost), the writer of a sci-fi television series called ‘Angel 8’, as some sort of messianic figure: an idea which, when he turns up at a convention organised by Trix (Suanne Braun), he lampoons partly because he’s British, and so somewhat self-effacing, but mostly because he’s had too much to drink on account of being told, just hours before he was due to speak at ‘Eight Con One’ that ‘Angel 8’ has been cancelled by whichever television network it was on due to low ratings. Not for nothing is the Act Two opening number in this musical called ‘Nobody’s Watching’.

But the sci-fi too often gives way to sudden, and therefore unconvincing, expressions of romance: Craig (Tim Rogers) pursues Andra (Sophie Powles), but teenager Baxter (Eddy Payne) is also after Andra’s attention. Trix finds herself snogging Furnish. Furnish’s keynote speech was preceded by the sort of build up that called to mind those political rallies in America where the party faithful are introduced to ‘the next President of the United States’. A whole musical number, ‘Coming Up Next’, is dedicated to introducing one man.

Furnish is, frankly, a breath of fresh air, even if his terse remarks on the podium leave the convention attendees confused at best and upset at worst. The plot is as thin as the laptop which Furnish works (or tries to work) from, and it is only after the interval that the geekiness of the characters starts to properly shine through. A show within the show is presented, though as it is in truncated form, it is not all that easy to follow. Elsewhere, an early argument, by way of angry tweeting, is soon stopped by Trix. It would have been good to have used projections, deployed in any event throughout the show to tell us who is calling whom or what section of the convention a scene takes place in, to let the audience in on what precisely they are tweeting about.

At least the creatives came up with ‘Angel 8’ and its characters, which didn’t come across to me as a rip off of already well-known intergalactic beings. There’s a moment not altogether removed from ‘Stars In Their Eyes’ when the convention attendees quickly and seamlessly change into ‘cosplay’ (not ‘costumes’ – Andra points out that “terminology is very important”). It doesn’t help when Trix states in an address to the convention attendees, the (non-participatory) role that the audience plays, that “your patience is wearing thin” and that the event has been “one big let-down”. I am sorry to report that she’s right, for the most part.

The production is not without redeeming features, however. The happy ending may be highly conventional, but the power of collaboration can never be proven enough times, and the more humorous moments brought a lighter air to proceedings. And a small band led by John Reddel consistently produces a sound that includes a slight but nonetheless distinct other-worldliness. It goes well with a show full of sci-fi aficionados.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

In a distant Galaxy – the ragtag misfit crew of cargo ship Angel 8 are under the command of fearless pilot Iris Aucht.

Meanwhile…at a conference centre, somewhere in England – a ragtag misfit collection of 1,000 fans gather from all across the UK for Eight Con One, the first ever official convention of the cult TV show Angel 8.

Angel 8 started as a comic created by reclusive British Sci-fi author Scott Furnish. Its first TV outing ended on a shocking cliffhanger. With eager anticipation at the promise of a second series, these enthusiastic devotees have come together to celebrate their beloved series and to meet Scott face-to-face and hear his keynote speech.

The Stable is a production company, established to commission develop and present original musical theatre www.thestablemusicals.co.uk

A sci-fi convention musical
By Matt Board and Reina Hardy
Directed by Grace Taylor
Designed by P J McEvoy
Original Dramaturgy by Lotte Wakeham
Choreography Anthony Whiteman
Musical Supervisor – Jim Henson

The Playground Theatre
8 Latimer Rd
London, W10 6RQ
November 8 to December 9 2018


1 thought on “Fanatical a sci-fi convention musical at The Playground Theatre”

  1. Me and my daughter had a fantastic evening at Fanatical last night. I didn’t have any particular expectation, though i do like sci-fi. And musicals. But we absolutely loved it. Brilliant music, clever lyrics, wonderful performers. The whole audience loved it and gave a standing ovation. I think you would have to be pretty cynical not to love it, it made us feel very happy!

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