Courtney Rose Brown and Bethany Miller
The performers take on many roles as different narratives are weaved throughout the show, all exploring the central theme. Their primary roles, however, are scientists presenting information. Each scientist embodies a different characteristic, such as “the Angry Scientist” and “the Sad Scientist”. My favourite embodiment is “the Dull Scientist” (Isadora Lao) whose low energy ironically makes her the most engaging. ‘Dull’ becomes a fascinating enigma. Lao somehow drags out each line or moment with so little enthusiasm it is utterly hilarious.
The thematic discussion of fear interweaves audience interaction, numbered experiment announcements and episodic stagings of a film script. Witnessing this frantic film recreation, complete with camera shots as narrated is hilariously fun. These scenes are enhanced by the flurry of performers, who work to establish the angle, frame, movement, mood and overall space on cue, hitting the tropes and cliches of retro alien movies. The minimalistic use of set dressings and props build these shots. My favourite moments are the changes in perspective, especially the transitions between a two-shot and an over-the-shoulder shot. In order for the audience to maintain the lense of a camera without having to move, the performers and their set must rotate themselves. What is most enjoyable is seeing the performers race about the stage and fumble in their movements to achieve this illusion.
The experimental design elements are instrumental for the world and atmosphere building of the play. Their presence is so strong they almost feel like characters in their own rights. The music and lighting (Jason Longstaff and Brett Adam) design work exceptionally well together, and it’s a real treat when they strike a mood perfectly. Lights are used cleverly inside the glass of the dome and in the crafting of constructed film shots. The music score is epic, incorporating extracts from famous films and classical music. I roar with laughter at Saint-Saëns’ romantic and dark “Aquarium” (Carnival of the Animals) accompanying a bedtime story and fight the temptation to sing along to a techno version of “O Fortuna” (Orff’s Carmina Burana). Spooky atmospheric rhythms, dark harmonies and retro beats add mystery and humour to the show.
The costumes are a bizarre juxtaposition of sterile lab coats and gaudy 50s get-up, particularly distinctive in the women’s bouncy floral frocks, curled hair, popping lipstick and white flats. With discussion of social media and current events, I wonder what the period’s functionality is and if it extends beyond the retro sci-fi aesthetic? The parasite boogie is a special highlight which mashes elements of music, lighting and even costume. Intrigued? You’ll have to see it for yourself!
While there are some brilliant structural devices (such as the film episodes, although at times the novelty wore thin), some established motifs and scenarios feel neglected towards the end. We are left with a lot of questions. What happened to the mysterious latecomer? Our raffle ticket is only partially explained, does it mean we are safe? What (or how) are these experiments? Could these features have been extended? No final experiments are announced or played out so the ending comes somewhat jarringly and I feel unsure of whether the show has ended.
It is hard to tell the intention of the show, aside from the seasonal appropriateness of its theme. Is there any meaning beyond fear from a scientific explanatory point of view? One message I did take was that we should both embrace and be wary of it.
Despite these questions I had a thoroughly entertaining sixty minutes. The giggles started and would not stop! Invaders From Mars is a weird and thoroughly enjoyable laugh of a show.