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Dead Static, Hen and Chickens Theatre

Written and directed by Steve Jordan
★★★

Pros: A witty script written by a clearly talented and intelligent writer.

Cons: The characters seemed a bit one dimensional; Tyler very angry, Gary very dim. Not even the more personal moments or the very end made me fully believe in the characters.

Our Verdict: A quite clever and amusing script is performed relatively well in this production.

Courtesy of ManMoth Productions

Imagine you’re in a post-apocalyptic future where earth has been burnt asunder and there are colonies of humans on all the other planets in our solar system. Now imagine that future exists in a universe more like Shaun of the Dead than I Am Legend. This is the universe we are introduced to in Dead Static. We meet Tyler (Cliff Chapman) and Gary (Adam Joselyn) who are unfortunately stuck on a spaceship making its way into an asteroid belt. They have no means of turning the ship around and are therefore more than likely to crash and die. Dead Static follows the last hour of their lives as they try to understand why they’ve been sentenced to death, take back control of the ship, send a mayday message out and squabble with one another.

The only way I can think to describe this show is as a mixture between Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter (courtesy goes to my father for this suggestion) and the well-known British TV show Red Dwarf. An odd combination that perhaps seems unlikely, but it takes the quirky dark humour of Red Dwarf – making light of people, places and situations that could easily be turned into a nail biting drama – and adds to this a Pinter-esque relationship between the two shipmates. The characters of Tyler and Gary match up easily with The Dumb Waiter’s Ben and Gus, and in fact the ending is equally similar if a lot more light-hearted.

Cliff Chapman delivers his longer speeches with an elegance and ease of flow while Adam Joselyn’s comic timing is pretty impressive. The script is clever and influenced heavily by Red Dwarf, as previously mentioned. That being said, Steve Jordan (writer) and Ellen Gallagher (script consultant) have been able to produce something for the stage that didn’t make it seem like I was watching the programme – it was more of a homage than a copycat.

I liked the minimalist set – two chairs placed front facing on the stage – as it becomes too easy to make a small black box venue seem amateurish when too much set is added. Sadly the actors didn’t quite use it convincingly. Neither of them seemed entirely comfortable in the space they were using which led to them pacing the stage a bit too much, perhaps suggesting a slight lack of clear direction. In addition, I felt that the characters could have done with a bit more development. Perhaps Gary should have had a bit more depth to him (especially given the ending when his personality effectively changes), and Tyler was slightly one-dimensional as well: a ruthless businessman. Sadly they didn’t quite work as they were. Saying this, the play probably isn’t around to explore the relationship between two humans who are intrinsically selfish, but rather to produce a light comedy, which this show certainly did.

The show is light and bouncy, and the audience certainly seemed to enjoy it. I would recommend taking a bunch of friends to see it if you go, get a few drinks down you at the pub (which is rather nice!) and have a laugh (but an intellectual laugh). It’s a good bit of fun, and I’m not sure that ManMoth Productions wanted anything more than that!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Dead Static runs at the Hen and Chickens Theatre until 15th December 2012.
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