REVIEW: The Intergalactic Nemesis

Irrepressible and impressive fun

By Rachel Holkner

It is difficult to describe The Intergalactic Nemesis. Is it a traditional radio play, but with pictures? A graphic novel plus sound effects? A troupe of storytellers with a piano and a laptop? They introduce themselves as a “Live-Action Graphic Novel” but this performance is so much more than that. With a history reminiscent of other science-fiction radio dramas adapted for stage or screen (Orson Welles, Douglas Adams), The Intergalactic Nemesis the stage show is adapted from a stage play, in turn adapted from a radio drama and now also available as a comic book and video series on Youtube. So does the story itself warrant this multi-media attention?

The Intergalactic Nemesis

It’s a traditional tale of alien invasion set in 1933 with a mismatched team of heroes destined to save the Earth. But it’s not the story that will draw you to see this show: it’s the unusual production, the performance and the promise of “awesome”. On stage is a table of mysterious objects, a laptop, and a piano. Through projected illustrations, an improvised soundtrack and live sound effects the story unfolds across space and time.

The three actors Rachel Landon, Christopher Lee Gibson and Brock England are a delight in hamming up their somewhat stereotypical roles as characters in this 1930s sci-fi mystery story. If there had been any sets they would have been chewed to pieces by these enthusiastic performers. Having the 1,200 illustrations projected behind the players, with the computer being on stage, gave an air of being shown a giant Powerpoint presentation. The art matched the atmosphere perfectly, yet I felt it wasn’t always necessary as the action on stage was much more appealing.

With over half a dozen parts each, the trio not only spoke their lines but acted out their roles as much as standing behind a microphone allowed them .Accompanist Harlan Hodges very successfully fleshes out the show with a wide variety of mood music, trills and stings on the piano, yet it is foley artist Kelly Matthews who steals the show.

Even watching her prepare various props for upcoming scenes was fascinating as you’re kept wondering what each strange object might be used for. Concrete blocks, sheets of plastic, odd packets and tubes make a huge variety of creative sound effects. A small box of macaroni shaken in just the right way makes for a very compelling steam train chuffing along.

Some of the 1930’s-style jokes unfortunately fall a little flat as they don’t always translate for a modern Australian audience, and there was a big deal made about audience participation during the lengthy introduction which did not quite eventuate as it might if it were a broadcast performance. I can see this working much better with a larger audience of children than the sedate evening performance I attended.

The greatest highlight were the moments when the show became self-referential: when the performers played wonderfully off one another. Most of these moments felt very well-practised however and are in danger of becoming stale. The projected comic images keep the show running exactly to schedule and are unfortunately somewhat limiting as they remove the opportunity for the actors and sound artists, who know their roles so well, to improvise and add freshness to the performance.

Nonetheless, The Intergalactic Nemesis is a terrific family show, highly entertaining and warmly recommended for people who like to know how things work behind the scenes.

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Dates: 9 – 13 September 2015
Tickets: $30-$45
Venue: Arts Centre Playhouse