BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

27/10/2016 - 05/11/2016

Production Details

It’s almost midnight. As the fog rolls in over the graveyard, thunder and lightning can be heard all around and there is something lurking there in the shadows. A glowing flying saucer appears from behind the clouds and slowly hovers overhead… This is the time of year when the devil and the boogey-man rise out of the darkness to wreak havoc, terrorise the population and fight for control of the world…(oh, and it’s also Halloween).

Invaders from Mars takes its inspiration from B grade sci-fi films of the 1950s and their thinly masked fear of communists and other alien threats of the time to take the audience on a journey through the many guises of fear in our contemporary lives. Is fear learnt or innate? Are we truly living in a ‘culture of fear’? Can fear be a positive force in our lives? Is there more to be afraid of now than ever before? 

Directed by Brett Adam, members of the Long Cloud Youth Theatre ensemble have created a funny, disturbing and enlightening work that weaves these and other questions together to create a unique theatrical experience. Encompassing scientific experiments, dancing viruses, bedtime stories, game-shows and alien autopsies, we hope that it will illuminate and alleviate your own fears, suspicions and phobias. 

BATS Theatre – The Heyday Dome
27 October – 5 November 2016
Full Price $18 
Concession Price $14 
Group 6+ $13 

Sad Scientist – Rosie Glover
Brave Scientist – Michael McAdam
Angry Scientist – Libby Greatnews
Dull Scientist – Isadora Lao
Excited Scientist – Thomas Robinson
Distracted Scientist – Jonathan Hobman

Devised by the Ensemble (with additional input by Caitlin Fitt-Simpson, Freya Hope-Higginson, Liam Whitney, Liam Kelly, Keegan Bragg, Nick Rowell, Paul Boyle, Bella Guarrera, Bella Austin, and others)

Writers - Michael McAdam, Libby Greatnews and Brett Adam

Director - Brett Adam
Assistant Director – Libby Greatnews
Costume Designer – Rosie Glover
Production Manager – Jason Longstaff
Lighting and Sound Operator – Jason Longstaff
Graphic Designers – Danan Swanson, Melanie Jonassen
Graphic Design Mentor – Tabitha Arthur

For more information about Long Cloud, including auditions, please contact Brett Adam at

Youth , Theatre ,

Has yet to stand up and command respect

Review by John Smythe 28th Oct 2016

It’s study-for-exams-time for senior secondary and tertiary education students so this Long Cloud Youth Theatre production fields an unusually small cast of just six.

The media release for Invaders from Mars tells us it’s also “the time of year when the devil and the boogey-man rise out of the darkness to wreak havoc, terrorise the population and fight for control of the world … (oh, and it’s also Halloween).” A silly season, then. Fair enough.

The show is devised by the Ensemble with additional input from nine more named people and others unnamed. And two of the actors – Michael McAdam and Libby Greatnews – are credited as writers along with the director, Brett Adam. I’m guessing it’s been a commitment to an inclusive and democratic creating process that has rendered the result less than it could have been.

Having been processed through a portal where we are asked to write down our hopes for the future and handed a colour-coded raffle ticket, we gather in the gloom beneath BATS’ Dome to be treated to the sort of oogy-boogy party-masked spooks display we might expect in the Haunted House at a primary school gala. Suspending judgement (we’re a well-disposed and optimistic opening night audience), we find seats.

It turns out the white-coated ‘spooks’ are scientists and “Experiment #1 is now complete; results pending.” Their leader, credited in the programme as Brave Scientist (Michael McAdam), welcomes us to the “The LongCloud Lab” where “the best and brightest minds” have apparently been gathered to present tonight’s offering. That’s promising.

The Brave Scientist’s team includes Sad Scientist (Rosie Glover), Angry Scientist (Libby Greatnews), Dull Scientist (Isadora Lao) Excited Scientist (Thomas Robinson) – and not initially present, Distracted Scientist (Jonathan Hobman). They are named for the default expressions that sit on their faces like masks, which again is promising. Surely what follows will include our discovery of what it takes to flip them into an opposite state. Spoiler alert: that doesn’t happen; they are the same all the way through which reduces the potential for a dynamic dramatic structure and denies the actors a chance to explore more range.

The plan to screen the 1958 horror film Invaders from Mars (in which incidentally, a boy’s father investigates a spaceship crash and comes back changed: “Where once he was cheerful and affectionate, he’s now sullen and snarlingly rude”)[i] has fallen foul of the need to get rights, so the ensemble sets out to re-enact it live on stage.

We have seen some terrific theatre in this genre over the years, including The 39 Steps and The Hound of the Baskervilles, not to mention LCYT’s own production of Wheeler’s Luck four years ago. The creative ingenuity of Live Live Cinema’s Dementia and Little Shop of Horrors also offers a relevant comparison. This could be classic ‘silly season’ stuff.

The way the scientists use available furniture and props to approximate the shooting script being narrated by Brave Scientist, however, is amusing for a while but soon palls by comparison with the above-mentioned gems, mainly because there is no driving purpose to give momentum to the tricks they use to recreate the first few scenes of the film, shot by shot.

As a theatrical device it fades to black rather than builds. Perhaps that’s the point: we are here to witness experiments, some of which fail. OK. But when mention of the alien-inflicted x-mark incision on the back of victims’ necks also fails to generate a dramatic payoff, I realise I’m losing faith.

A lecture on fear and whether we choose fight, flight or freeze, promises to bring thematic coherence and purpose to proceedings. The enquiry into fears and phobia’s is interesting in and of itself, as is the cautionary take the mother tells the boy (in a re-enacted film scene). The meaning of the tickets we’ve been given is revealed but there is no follow through which leaves us feeling awkward.  

There’s a shadow-play ‘aliens autopsy’ sequence; a gabbled ‘word from our sponsor’ whose product promises to “clean, foam and shine all in one”; an audience-involving Quizaphobia; the Dome is put to good use in context; we are asked what we would do if we came face-to-face with our fears in the dark and a number of cult films are referenced.

I’m warming to it more now because most of us are aware that fear is used in the real world as a political weapon, so deconstructing where and what fear really is seems relevant and interesting. Sure it concludes with a cliché but that’s an abiding truth so fair enough – except dramatically it’s a bit of a come-down.

While many creative minds have been brought to bear on LCYT’s Invaders from Mars-inspired show, the component parts don’t come together to make it inspiring – or they don’t on opening night, anyway. While I wouldn’t go quite so far as to call it The Night of the Spineless Blob, it has yet to stand up and command respect.

The actors could certainly sell it to us more (it does feel under-rehearsed) but I can’t help thinking a dramaturgical solution is needed, leading to the ruthless revision or even disposal of elements that don’t contribute to a whole that transcends its component parts. Now there’s a fear to be faced.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council