Friday, 5 July 2019

Days of future past… Dark Sublime, Trafalgar Studios


“Nowadays you’re lucky if you get a rehearsal… which is very unlike life, if you think about it, which is all fucking rehearsal and no fucking performance…”

At various points in my life I have indeed felt the pull of old “fantasy television” and ended up buying not just box sets of old TV comforts but also annuals and toys. Now these are not just for me you understand, they’re for my son who I long ago infected with Star Wars and Doctor Who… and now he too is at the age when the originals were best

Yet, far from being nostalgia pick-me-ups, the best science fiction has always presented a mirror to our current lives, highlighting the dangers, just around the corner. Thus, in watching a near future world conquered by Cybermen or Daleks we realise how much of our current moral strength (largely) prevents this happening. Science fiction and science fantasy are concerned about the future and that concern is also very much for now and not later.

But, is TV science fiction the “answer” is it a way to lead your life either as a performer or watcher? Michael Dennis’ new play examines the role of fandom in revealing and obscuring eternal truths. It’s a massive subject and even with the play’s running length not one to be exhausted in a single evening but the characters are warm and the interjections of sections from the “actual” show with Simon Thorp channelling equal parts Tom Baker and Paul Darrow as Vykar and Mark Gatiss in his (recorded) dream role as Orac’s cheekier cousin Kosley the Computer, make sure that Dark Sublime carries the atmospherics of its inspiration.
Marina Sirtis (credit Scott Rylander)
On top of this of course we have your actual sci-fi royalty in Marina Sirtis – Star Trek, The Next Generation's Deanna Troi - as Marianne and she does not disappoint especially in giving us a rounded character who is more than just the sum of her previous parts… As her character says: “It paid the mortgage – helped pay the mortgage – but it’s not the one bright book of my life! I’ve played parts over the whole of my career… Portia, Rosalind!”

Marianne is not Marina whose career was, literally (ha-ha) beyond stratospheric in the hugely successful TNG but she is very relatable as the jobbing actor who has made her career with runs in Emmerdale, supplemented by workshops. She’s a battle-hardened pro ever ready with a quip and a put down for friend and foe alike especially her best friend Kate (a radiant Jacqueline King – who has done a stint in Doctor Who herself as Donna’s Mum).

Marina gets some real zingers to deliver and doesn’t miss a beat, it’s a play that clearly resonates but whilst the situation is, we assume, a familiar one, the story digs a lot deeper into our relationships with each other and, specifically the ones we love.
Kwaku Mills (credit Scott Rylander)
Kate has a new girlfriend, Suzanne (Sophie Ward, subtle and sophisticated as you'd expect) a younger woman and one of unhindered emotional intelligence and with a forthright wisdom that seems to allude the quicksilver Marianne. The latter doesn’t approve but won’t really be specific about why; jealousy or loneliness or just everything.

Marianne breaks the golden rule and agrees to meet a young fan, Oli (excellent newcomer, Kwaku Mills, energetic and instantly likeable) a twenty one year old man who has found a great deal of solace in the show she made 35 years ago; Dark Sublime, a cross between the shows made above and so many that could have been. He sees universal themes that still resonate whilst Marianne sees only one job out of dozens.

Oli runs a website on the otherwise neglected show and persuades Marianne to attend a convention for 500 fans in Walsall… nominally in aid of cystic fibrosis but also a chance for people of lack minds to pay tribute. It provides a catalyst for a re-boot of the honesty in Kate and Marianne’s relationship as well as being a turning point for Oli, unlucky in love with his friend Theo but with the realisation that he is not alone in a World full of wonders.

The narratives of the fictional TV show and the here and now collide in a genuinely thrilling and moving closing segment: well written and heartfelt.

Love is all you need.
Andrew Keates directs this top-notch cast so well, there's a genuine warmth and team spirit that both underpins the tribute the futures past but also makes the human drama all the more convincing. As Suzanne says: “I think – love is… rare enough, that it needs… cherishing, wherever it flowers.” So, whether it be about an old TV show or old friends/new friends who love what you love, Dark Sublime is one of the most optimistic and funny plays of the year!

IThankYou Rating: **** Boldly going where no play has gone before, it’s actually very light and definitely sublime!

Tickets available from the Box Office - better be quick!

Big Finish need to release these scripts on audio! Simon Thorp in action!

No comments:

Post a comment