Over at STARBURST Towers, we are suckers for a good old retro sci-fi show. Pointy rockets ships, elaborate metaphors for social issues and two-fisted pulp adventure are all our sort of thing, so we were intrigued by Casagua Productions sci-fi comedy, Moon Quest. With its promise of a show inspired by movies such as Star Crash and Flash Gordon, we had to go and take a look. What we got was an ambitious production that sadly failed to hit the mark.
The show’s plot involves a pilot, called Gabi, who has been sent to Mars to rescue a chap called Steve Morris, who went missing during the last Mars mission. Instead of landing on Mars, she encounters one of Mars three invisible moons, unknown to Earth scientists. Each moon is at war with the other, and she navigates her across various sci-fi pulp tropes in order to find out what happened to Steve.
Much of the show’s humour comes from pulp tropes - exotic Amazons, dumb blokes who are more bravado than skill, silly traditions and so on. The main problem is that all of the fun bits are buried under lengthy expository dialogue and clumsy stage direction. Chunks of the show were spent explaining backstory; geography, culture, and language. This would have been good if we had gotten even a single gag as pay off, but sadly the jokes were thin on the ground. For the most part, we got an awful lot of tell and not enough show, so much so that the entire thing felt like a radio play. This is a pity as the Kings Arms in Salford is an intimate venue, making it easier to do a lot with very little.
The story lurched from idea to idea. Some of them had great potential such as a comic book-style fight scene, and the few props used, such as a child’s trike for a high-tech machine, were inspired. Alas, the overall result was a slow and lacklustre thing, in sore need of a good edit and a much shorter runtime.
The production we saw had a slight change to the regular cast, as director Ian Ralph was also taking the role as the story’s main villain, Dieson, replacing the previous actor. This explains why Ralph’s performance was the weakest, with the actor relying mostly on shouting to get his point across. The rest of the cast did exceptionally well with an overly complicated script, giving superb performances throughout. Paul Worrall and Christina Sedgewick drove much of the story forward as Gabi and Steve, taking full advantage at the few glimmers of humour in the script and milking them for every drop.
The Greater Manchester Fringe is a smorgasbord of theatrical skills and talents. You will often get an uneven mix of skill, talent and the like rubbing together. This is a good thing as it encourages further development. Moon Quest’s ambitious story and concept show a lot of promise. Like many shows at the fringe, it felt unfinished, but it also lacked that certain fringe charm. We sincerely hope that Casagua Productions develops its ideas further in future, and long live pulp sci-fi.