I was really lucky to be invited to see three shows at the Vault Festival in London this week, and I was very excited as I’d never been before, and heard that it was kind of like the Fringe, but a bit darker (perhaps because it was underground). Summer Nights in Space was the first of the shows I saw over the two days.
Summer Nights in Space, a musical created by the makers of the Quentin Dentin Show, and written by Henry Carpenter, tells the tale of astronaut John Spartan, a space-obsessed introvert who even after three years in space, accompanied only by his computer, sees that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. A distress signal from an attractive astronaut kick starts his adventure to strive off course and bleeds a new found sense of purpose into John, but along with aliens and the reveal of a big secret, John realises some things are better left unknown.
I’ll be completely frank; I didn’t enjoy the show. I was very excited at the prospect of a musical set in space, considering sci-fi musical Rocky Horror has done so well and the two oddities – space and musicals – seem to gel well together.Unfortunately, the show lacked what is most important in a musical: catchy songs. A few days later I am still struggling to remember any of the songs, and usually if I’ve seen a good musical, the songs will be in my head and I’ll be humming them for weeks. Moving forward, work on the show needs to be done to ensure each of the songs have a distinct sound, as I found that they all melted into one another and sounded the same, as well as implementing some harmonies and group songs, as in this instance, having a show full of solo songs just isn’t working.
The first half of the show is essentially a one-man show for Captain John Spartan [Matthew Jacobs Morgan] who gives us a lot of exposition through these uninspiring songs. Though the plot itself is not exciting, Morgan does well to keep the pace flowing and does add some funny quirks into his performance, even if some of his jokes fell flat.
The second half of the show introduces two characters: an alien, and (I think) antagonist ‘Lethal Space Bizzle’. Candice Palladino’s performance as the alien is a nuanced one, and her physicality has clearly been thought about and is well-maintained, as she contorts herself into crouching positions and snarls frequently at the audience. Her voice is pretty powerful, too- I just wish she had something more to sing about than an “in-va-a-a-asion”. I also didn’t know whether to feel scared by her character possibly killing John and the entire human race, or amused as it all seemed so cliche.
I think the production team perhaps wanted to revel in the show’s cliches and obvious plot, but due to comedic timings not being hit (or even heard due to the volume of the band) this element was lost and it seemed as if they were really trying to be serious in telling this crazy space story which had no point to it.
‘Lethal Space Bizzle’ (Benjamin Victor), was an odd role to the show, only coming on for maybe five minutes at the end of the show to rap and gloat. Having bullied John and other budding astronauts, he appeared to be the clear antagonist, but instead of disliking him and his actions, I instead wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Picture it: there’s an alien, a nerdy astronaut, and a man rapping, surrounded by a glitching projection of space and a beach ball. By this point in the evening – which had been a long one – I was stunned into silence.
The concept of this show is an interesting one – I suppose it wants to evoke that feeling of achieving your dreams despite all the obstacles that could stand in your way. Unfortunately, what the writers need to work on is the purpose of each character – at the moment it’s very unclear whether I am supposed to like any of the characters, laugh at them, or outright hate them. In it’s current form, it’s all a bit ambiguous, and the writing lacks an end goal for the audience to root for, leaving us a little bit confused by the ending and how to feel. My feeling when I stepped out of the performance space was one of deflation, confusion, and feeling ready to go home to my comfortable flat on earth.