In 2013, directors Danielle Kummer and Lucy Harvey serendipitously stumbled upon an ad for a community theatre production of Alien, and the more they learned about the performance, the more the pair could not resist driving three hours to a small town in Dorset to see the show. Created by three generations of Alien fans and cast by bus drivers, the first time the curtains raised on the stage-adapted story, looked like also its last considering only about 20 people (including Kummer and Harvey) actually attended. However, the directors recognized a bit of genius and a bit of madness in the performance, and shortly after, Alien the play got the invitation to perform in a theatre in Leicester Square: a jaw-dropping dream for any actor. ALIEN ON STAGE follows the amateur cast and crew as they go from a Dorset flop to a sold-out West End, but most importantly Kummer and Harvey expertly depict a tone of heartfelt triumph and illustrate the importance (and challenges) of adaptations.
In 2012, a local acting troupe performed a pantomime version of Robin Hood, which didn’t make any kind of headlines and surely did not leave a memorable mark on any of the audience members, but everyone involved had a good time and decided to partake in another performance the following year. However, not wanting to perform another pantomime, in 2013 the young Luc Hayward decided to take a much different route and opted to adapt one of his favorite movies for the stage. After showing the script to his family, Alien the Stage Adaptation took its first steps. Dave Mitchell (Luc’s Father) took on the role of director, Lydia Hayward (Luc’s mother) became Ripley, and Luc’s girlfriend, brother, and grandad all found their place behind the scenes as well. Beyond familial connections, the cast and crew all present as a close-knit group with plenty of love and respect for each other. Kummer and Harvey display this jovial and supportive tone throughout the film which also shows a high level of admiration for all the aliens in front of the audience and backstage.
ALIEN ON STAGE shows the evolution of an amateur performance, and how the show and everyone involved grew to their potential. The cast of bus drivers immediately comes off as genial and content with their small-town life. When introducing the cast, Kummer and Harvey perform interviews in small spaces such as bus seats or cramped apartment rooms. Using settings with restricted spaces gives a visual presentation of limitations, but when rehearsing on stage, the spacious surroundings allow the working-class performers a space to expand in and feel liberated. Think of it as moving a small fish from a 10-gallon tank to a 50-gallon tank. Suddenly they all have space to flourish and grow. From script approval, the casting of blue-collar amateurs, and genre-redefining, one of the highlights of the film can be found in the mastery of Pete, the unassuming monster maker. Wanting to do Alien justice, he asked himself WWRSD (What Would Ridley Scott Do?) and he found the inspiration to create impressive effects with very low-budget items.
Besides creating an absolutely heart-warming experience (which will bring tears to some eyes), the artform of adaptation gets highlighted and praised every step of the way. Adaptation often serves as a commentary on the original source material and allows for the adaptors to offer an alternative point of view, and even a voice to the unheard. Or re-envisioning a story allows for a wider audience to appreciate and receive the material. The Dorset crew brought their own take on Alien by bringing in humor, but their vision of a well-beloved horror film also allowed for stage performers and audience members to see a different approach to acting and allow for the inclusion of patrons or participants who normally would not consider themselves theatre-lovers. ALIEN ON STAGE captures so much about the joys of theatre, but hopefully will also encourage more adaptations in the world of art.
ALIEN ON STAGE is being shown On-Demand at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.