Saturday, 29 June 2019

REVIEW: Dark Sublime at the Trafalgar Studios

Michael Dennis, the writer of Dark Sublime, makes a very good first effort at a full-length play at the intimate Trafalgar Studios 2. It is a mix exploring the style of Eighties TV Sci-Fi, the modern-day cult of Cos Play conventions and long-term gay friendships. Some elements work better than others not helped by the constraints of the set design and budget.

The design by Tim McQuillen-Wright works well for the interior of actress Marianne’s flat and neatly transforms into the spaceship of the Dark Sublime TV show but is far less effective as an outdoor field or the convention centre hotel for Ruby Con 1 as too much of the flat props are still visible. It makes the scenes in these locations harder to engage with as they are largely duologues with relatively static blocking. A bigger budget and venue would have allowed a more imaginative setting for these key scenes where the gay relationships and friendships are tenderly explored.

Kwaku Mills is the twenty-one-year-old gay fanatic obsessed with the TV series Dark Sublime which aired between 1979 and 1981. He is totally believable, and his obsession is both understandable and insane at the same time. He enjoys some great comic exchanges with Marianne (the star of the TV series) played by Marina Sirtis (from Star Trek: the next generation). Her dry bitchy asides generate large laughs followed by ripples of amused reflection. Equally the first scene where we meet her and her friend Kate (Jacqueline King) is very well written as their strained past relationship is played out like a game of tennis firing lobs across the net at each other. Both scenes deal with can friendships exists when one is in the first case a Fan and in the second a former lover?

The Act 2 scene where they recreate a lost episode script from the TV series with Simon Thorp as Vyker and Sophie Ward as his sidekick searching for the Shadow Ruby (a paradox mineral apparently) is a joy although as one character says “I could never make head or tail of these things”.

Director Andrew Keates uses the tiny space well, creating four different
entrances and generally sorting the blocking so the audience on three sides of the acting space all get a decent view and recreates the feel of eighties sci-fi drama very well.

As someone who was brought up watching Dr Who, Blakes 7 and the Tomorrow People and who worked at Thames TV in Teddington in the nineties and helped create UK Gold, it was wonderful to see the great broadcaster credited and read a very well-designed programme reflecting an eighties TV annual. That nostalgia added to the enjoyment and with a better set and some script rewrites and cuts in the longer scenes this could be a very good play.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Row C | Price of Ticket: £15

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