Rehearsal Space (by Bewilderbeastly Productions in Manchester) is like all your favourite antiquated science fiction TV and radio shows brought to the stage. It has elements of Doctor Who and Douglas Adams, with a dash of queer colour for extra fun.
In the tradition of those aforementioned SF shows, Rehearsal Space starts off rough and sketchy. The characterisation is broad and borderline pantomime. We have egocentric luvvies and spoiled brats, kooky New Agers and stern-minded producers. While bits of the set slowly fall apart, the first act wrings every joke it can from the premise of actors gathering to film a badly-written low-budget TV series. But this is all rather how it should be, and it’s worth hanging on in there as the play moves from the show’s first episode to its cancellation.
Come the second act, the script and the actors settle in, and you really begin to engage. As the show is cancelled, friendships and relationships are tested. The archetypes established in the first act begin to peel apart. The search for humour becomes less forced and more fluid, with the actions and reactions providing the laughs, as the cast begins to subvert the expectations you had from the first act.
The most successful comedy moments are either physical or character-based (usually both), while the least successful are the one-liners – but overall this is a funny show. Writer Rylan Cavell revels in his fondness for geekery and invites the audience to join him on his merry jaunt through the backstages of a fictional TV sci-fi serial.
The obscure references, naff sets and hammy acting all add to its queer charm. That this production was put on beneath a bar on Canal Street is even better. And real geeks will also enjoy the sound production by Rylan (also a radio presenter for Fab Radio International‘s The Gay Agenda), which adds the authenticity of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s work on the seminal The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Rehearsal Space is pulpy, campy and silly, but it has loads of heart, and hits plenty of the right notes. Science fiction and TV fans will love this.
Rehearsal Space stars Chris Burton, rebecca Derrick, Misha Fekri, Anne-Louise Fortune, Paul Mackay and Andy Mason. It is written and directed by Rylan Cavell. Bewilderbeastly Productions hope to stage further shows during Greater Manchester Fringe.
Visit the Bewilderbeastly Productions website for more information.