Starburst is no stranger to theatre shows that explore the concept of fandom, with the likes of Suspended in Space, Fanatical and The Dark Sublime being recent examples. Jonathan Hall’s latest production Kasterborous In Bolton takes a grittier approach than most, which suits the low-budget fringe show perfectly.
The action takes place in 1999. Doctor Who fandom is still going strong despite it being ten years since the series ended on the BBC. Jason (played by Lee Petcher) is a young student who’s responsible for pulling together Kasterborous In Bolton, a modest Doctor Who convention. With Bonnie Langford cancelling due to cystitis, Jason is left with only two guests. The desperate and broken Dominic Holland (clearly an amalgam of real-world Doctor Who writers) and the vain and needy Jenny Carpenter, known to fans as the companion, Sally Anne Bridges. (Again, both Carpenter and Bridges are clearly reinterpretations of existing Who actresses and actual characters from the show.)
We open with Dominic (played by the excellent Dean Taylor) pleading with a show’s producer for a writing gig. Clearly all is not well in Dominic’s life. Jenny (Lesley Molony) arrives shortly afterwards, and we learn that neither have the life they hoped for. The two former colleagues are interrupted by Alan (Luke Perczyk) who has the social skill and grace of a Dalek. After being over friendly and terrifying to both guests, he is quickly ushered out by Jason, though of course not for long.
The play has a steady pace as the convention continues, with much of the action taking place in the green room. The script itself is very much on the nose; if you are part of Doctor Who fandom and have been to conventions like this then you’ll be delighted by the attention to detail. Everything from the infamous eyepatch story to the slightly lewder tales that orbit Who fandom are given a nod here.
Ultimately this a character piece, and the roles are fascinating. Perczyk is charming as the dim but passionate Alan, and the interactions between him and the character of Dominic. Molony is on point as Jenny, diving into the role of a frustrated and marginalised actress at full tilt to the audiences delight. Her comic timing is a delight throughout. This is ultimately Dominic’s story and it’s one of creative highs and lows.
The performance is excellent throughout. The script suffers from none of the characters being particularly sympathetic despite it’s best efforts. It’s not helped by numerous references to things that only regulars on Outpost Gallifrey would get. Still, it’s a lot of fun and has plenty of moments of both humour and pathos. This is a homage to everything you love about Doctor Who fans, and if that’s your passion, you’ll love this.
Kasterborous in Bolton is on at The Kings Arms until the 11th of July. Booking info can be found here.