Isadora Lao’s set design is brilliant. The run-down café courtyard perfectly evokes KJ and Jasper’s little corner of the world with its peace and its imperfections, and staging the play in traverse only adds to this intimacy. The way that each of the scenographic elements complement each other is impressive. The interplay of set, lighting, and sound constructs the exact laid back atmosphere that The Aliens needs. Lighting designer Rowan McShane deserves particular commendation for a stunning suggestion of fireworks and a satisfying integration of a window. It is a shame that Te Whaea is a shared space during this season though, because the sound bleed from upstairs distracts from Maxwell Apse’s sound design at times.
The Aliens calls for a lot of space between dialogue to build awkward tension. It is so easy for actors to drop energy during long pauses, but this cast does not. The way that all three performers hold the audience and their scene partners during these moments builds their characters and adds to both the humour and the sadness of the play. Dryw McArthur does a wonderful job of constructing Evan’s staple awkwardness around these points of tension, and his character is all the more loveable for it.
It is clear that all of the actors have put time and effort into nuance, as each performer brings something subtle and distinguishable to their characters that makes them feel like real people. But despite these efforts, KJ and Jasper feel like they do much the same thing for the play and could almost be interchangeable. I suspect this may be more of an issue with the way that the characters have been written though, so I don’t think this is a reflection on the actors.
I do think that the cast’s accents could have used a little more workshopping. They are fairly strong on the whole, but there are times in the show where Rs become a bit heavy handed and it pulls the audience out of the scene. Beyond that however, it is clear that the performers have given a lot of attention to the rehearsal process as the characters they create are authentic and moving.
Cassandra Tse’s iteration of The Aliens for Red Scare Theatre Company is a must see and is showing at Te Whaea in the basement theatre until Saturday 13 July. To book tickets visit the Eventfinda website.