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Floaters at the Old Red Lion Theatre | Review

FloatersEveryone has their own version of hell. One of mine is the idea of going on a cruise. Trapped in a metal box with nothing to look at most of the time except endless stretches of water. Still, at least on an Earth-based cruise, there are various stop-off points where you can explore the local scenery and get away from the rest of the inmates on the ship. For the passengers and crew of the Odyssey, the ship at the heart of new play Floaters, getting away is not an option.

The Odyssey is not one of the queens of the sea, majestically carving a path through one of the great oceans. Instead, she is a state of the art space liner, on her maiden voyage filled with crew and passengers, heading out on an 18-month journey around the solar system. This is the luxury cruise ship of them all, with a huge range of luxury amenities for the whole family. Including gyms, bowling alleys, archery ranges and yoga studios and three Olympic sized swimming pools! The beautifully prepared advertising campaign promises the lucky passengers the chance to see the universe from spacious viewing platforms and watch incredible performances in state of the art theatre. Then dance past Mars in an onboard nightclub or get a quiet drink and relax at the all-ages piano bar. Everyone is super excited as the ship takes off but is the voyage going to be everything they hoped? Or, at some point, will they realise, there is an awfully large amount of nothing between the planets, and an infinite time to fill as they travel through the solar system.

Writer Andrew Skipper who, along with Louise Waller directs and performs the piece, have inhabited the Odyssey with a whole host of characters, from the stiff upper lip Captain, through the rather ditzy Entertainment Director, and a nerdy bloke called Stuart to a couple of children who manage to have a profound effect on the ship’s onboard computer – Joe. A piece of AI technology so advanced, it was able to answer the age-old question of the chicken and the egg. All of the characters are really well formed and somehow seem just right onboard the ship. The only ones I wasn’t 100% sure about were the ground controllers. Their part in the process didn’t really gel for me, though they were quite fun.

Both actors are very talented and, using minimum props – a hat, Sainsbury’s bag, etc give each character their own personality and physical presence on the Odyssey as it heads out to the stars. They have obviously thought about the practicalities of a cruise of this sort – hence the title, which I initially thought was about walking in space – and the issues that could come up with people locked in a box for eighteen months. Given that a certain company is already offering space tourist packages, how long before the Odyssey becomes a reality?

One of my favourite aspects of the show is never seen but always there. The voice, and nice light-work – of Joe, the onboard computer. It would have been easy to turn this into a sort of 2001 with a HAL 9000 sound-alike running amok among the guests, but Andrew has resisted that temptation and made Joe a fascinating character, genuinely trying to do its best to serve and help the passengers and crew but let down by programmers who, for example, didn’t realise that children will try and break the system, and adults don’t always want to know what is best for them. I’m not sure who voiced Joe, but the pitch and intonation were just right and the interaction with the characters worked really well.

All in all, Floaters was a great show that really worked for me. Very funny and enjoyable, the only thing it didn’t do was change my mind on cruising one iota.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Feel like taking a premium contemporary cruise with endless freedom, and all those special little extras included? Have you seen all there is to see on planet Earth? Welcome aboard the Odyssey, humanities first all-inclusive interplanetary cruise that offers a huge range of luxury amenities for the whole family. Enjoy our on board gyms, bowling alleys, archery ranges and yoga studios or take a dip in one of our three Olympic sized swimming pools! See the universe from our spacious viewing platforms and watch incredible performances at our state of the art theatre. Dance past Mars in our nightclubs or get a quiet drink and relax at the all ages piano bar. Space may well be an empty vacuum but on board the Odyssey. There truly is something for everyone.

Floaters is written by Andrew Skipper.
Cast include Andrew Skipper and Louise Waller.
Direction and additional material by the company.
A new comedy debuting at the Old Red Lion Theatre
Sunday 24th February 7:00pm

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