Born and raised in the first human colony on the red planet, three “Martians” have returned to Earth to tell the story of life on Mars and their impressions of our own planet. Superbolt Theatre’s follow up to their highly successful Jurassic Parks is funny, warm-hearted, and surprisingly thoughtful.
Gracie, Chuck and Conway are out to tell the world about their experiences through stories, songs and dance. They are full of enthusiasm and eager to please; Chuck’s (Frode Gjerløw) naiveté and open smile imparts a pleasure to be performing that just can’t be suppressed. They are determinedly Martian: Mars is their home, and their struggle to settle on Earth sets up a pleasing disconnect. They appear baffled by Earth’s idiosyncrasies, while the audience is correspondingly amused by the oddities of Martian life.
Our hosts tell the story of the original mission to Mars, inspired by the oh-so-familiar successful megalomaniac businessman for whom the world is not enough. Of course it wouldn’t be 2017 without some satirical Trump references, but they are understated and knowing, never allowed to overpower the show.
There is an intelligence to the writing that weaves a lovely strand of thoughtfulness through the comedy. Maria Askew as Gracie questions the right of a society to make decisions about what happens to women’s bodies, while the men seem oblivious to the issue. Discovering the journal of an original colonist, Askew deftly introduces a note of sadness and pathos – without weighing down a play that has been light-hearted to this point.
Superbolt have that special type of genius, where you have to be brilliant at something in order to get it slightly wrong. Like Les Dawson playing the piano, it appears to be amateur hour, but it’s perfectly pitched and technically excellent. There are examples of exquisite timing, such as Simon Maeder’s ever-so-slightly-late contributions to a group song. But there are occasional moments where the tempo just drops slightly, and scenes that are funny in their own right don’t always contribute to the overall effect – most notably when an extended dance segment gave me time to work out a big reveal, thus dampening its impact.
Perhaps I am quibbling, but there are a lot of shows out there mining this seam of comic spoofery, particularly within the world of sci-fi. So while Mars Actually has barely a misstep, Superbolt may have to do more to stand out from the crowd. Still, this is a real crowd-pleaser: a charming and intelligent show that is a joy to watch, and further cements their reputation as purveyors of funny, physical theatre.