The Glorious Sky Awesomes
27/04/2010 - 01/05/2010
NZ International Comedy Festival 2010
Dates: Tues 27 April – Sat 1 May, 9.30pm
Venue: BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, City
Tickets: Adults $16, Conc $13, Groups 10+ $13
Booking: BATS 04 802 4175 or email@example.com
Show Duration: 50 mins
Produced by Brigid Monagle
Designed by Nick White
Operated by Rob Larsen
Pie-in-sky look at space race
Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 30th Apr 2010
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Deserves further development
Review by John Smythe 28th Apr 2010
In a change of pace from the standup fare that is dominating the Comedy Festival, last year’s runners up in the Two Day Plays Draft 2 competition – Nic Gorman and Paul Glubb – have fabricated a tangled and twisted yarn about how Yuri Gagarin and John Glenn became the first Russian (and first man ever) and first American to orbit the Earth.
Although their space flights were 10 months apart, and Soviet space dog Laika had orbited earth in Sputnik 2 three and a half years before Gagarin, The Glorious Sky Awesomes contrives to rocket them into space simultaneously as the Earth vanishes from the solar system.
That’s not really a spoiler because it’s a random ending to a shaggy dog story that gets its entertainment value from the telling – in the style of a couple of cousins entertaining their extended family and friends at the bach – rather than the punch line. Besides, I haven’t given away the final gag.
Fart-arsing about with costume changes – behind two long flags, depicting the stars & stripes and the hammer & sickle – and changing records on a turntable is all seen as part of the fun, so much so that it’s tempting to think it has all been thrown together. But although the odd costume piece or prop goes missing and they have to improvise – e.g. Stalin’s moustache becomes an inspired substitute for an ex-Nazi rocket scientist’s eye patch – it soon becomes clear they must have done a lot of writing, rewriting and rehearsal to get it on and get through it on the night without getting lost in their labyrinthine plot.
The one-page programme presents as a heavily-censored document on one side while the other offers a comprehensive Glossary of the key people and places. It’s well worth reading beforehand to a) appreciate that, despite appearances, a great deal of thought, research and imagination has gone into making this play, and b) get a better handle on the people and places that get referred to as if presuming we already know their significance.
A childhood nightmare about the fabled Moloch – an owl-like entity from the Bible’s Old Testament to which Canaanite and Phoenician parents sacrificed the children – introduces Nic Gorman’s John Glenn and haunts him throughout.
The fate of Paul Glubb’s Yuri Gagarin, first seen as a simple Soviet peasant boy in German-occupied Russia, is radically changed by the monstrous dictator Stalin.
And the lives of both are impacted by Wernher von Braun, unfairly depicted as a mad, one-eyed ex-Nazi rocket scientist in a wheelchair, hence both actors play the role at times. (A Google search reveals that the Wernher von Braun story is a complex and fascinating one in itself, as worthy of dramatic attention as Albert Speer.)
Eschewing the manic style of Monty Python, despite their similarly inspired disrespecting of legendary history, Glubb and Gorman plough through their material with admirable commitment. Perhaps, as it runs in, they – with the help of director Greg Cooper – they will be able to loosen up, give it more light and shade in pacing and tone, and have more fun with it.
As it is on opening night, I find myself especially impressed with Gorman’s ability to voice the dog – with a Mexican accent (?!) – while attending to technical jobs ‘off stage’, and Glubb’s vocal impersonation of Jack Kennedy at Bohemian Grove.
Despite the ramshackle presentation I feel this show deserves further development and a longer life, with the addition of an on-stage sound operator and costume change assistant, perhaps.
As long-form improv or the outcome of a 2-day play challenge, it would have been hailed as brilliant. But as a written and rehearsed play, it moves to a different level of expectation and potential. While there is method in the madness it’s hard to see any satirical or other dramatic purpose, beyond staging a silly piss-take of space-race history.
If The Glorious Sky Awesomes was able to crystallise satirical insights into East/West-cum-Capitalist/Communist politics, I could see some kind of crazy musical arising out of this raw material.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
nic gorman April 28th, 2010
Thank you John for your thoughtful and considered review. Just a minor correction - we were runners up in last years Two Day Plays comp, not winners as stated (wouldn't want Newtown Ghetto Anger going all street justice on us). - Nic, Lead Hat.
Thanks Nic, now corrected (mistake due to my failure to read what was clearly in front of me) - JS
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