Star Trek star Marina Sirtis plays Marianne Wells, a British actress who lives in a pokey London flat. Much of the action takes place in Marianne’s home, a place that looks like it hasn’t been decorated since the character’s halcyon days in the early 80s. We learn Marianne is famous for two things; her work in the soap-opera Emmerdale and ITV’s tea-time telefantasy adventure Dark Sublime. As the show opens Marianne is catching up with her lifelong friend Kate, played by Jacqueline Ward. (Best known to genre fans as Donna Noble’s mum in Doctor Who.) We learn that Kate has a new lover and against all the best advice, Marianne intends on inviting a fan of the Dark Sublime TV show to interview her.
Inevitably, Marianne invites Oli (played by Kwaku Mills) into her life, a young man who is a massive fan of the show. Oli’s life has been shaped by the show, an idea that Marianne finds amusing and strange in equal measure. The two explore Marianne’s career, whilst also reflecting on young Oli’s hopes and dreams. This is writer Michael Dennis’s debut play and the writing is on point. Funny, inciteful and very witty it treats the core subject with the amount of love and humour that it demands. Marianne’s hard-earned worldliness balances well against Oli’s fan-boy keen and Kwaku Mills is a revelation in this role, especially when you consider that he’s surrounded by brilliant and highly experienced actors throughout.
Things come to head when Marianne meets Suzanne (Young Sherlock Holmes’s Sophie Ward), her best friend’s current lover. Still waters run deep and as we head toward the interval, the audience is left a mx of surprised and confused, but in the best possible way. The second act brings the inevitable fan convention for The Dark Sublime TV show as well as a glimpse as to what the show is really about.
Despite its trappings, The Dark Sublime is a drama less about the trappings of fandom and more about the dangers of holding to strongly to the past. It’s a tale of love in all its forms, and a rather sweet one at that. The metaphors are laid on rather thick, as are the various fannish references. The stage production values are superb, with the small stage at Trafalgar Studios being used to maximum effect. Deftly directed, powerfully written and astoundingly acted, catch it while you can. Well worth the trip to London's West End.