The year is 1933. Molly Sloan, Pulitzer winning journalist (and all round tough gal) on the hunt for the “story of the century” is joined by her intrepid assistant Timmy Mendez and the mysterious librarian Ben Wilcott on a journey that will take them around the world and beyond, encountering spies, the menacing super villain Mysterion the Magnificent, and alien sludge monsters from the planet Zygon in a wild performance that is part stage show, part radio drama and part graphic novel.
Sounding a bit over the top? It sure is, and Intergalactic Nemesis: Target Earth (adapted from the Ray Patrick Colgan radio play) has Jason Neulander (Director, Writer and Production Designer) sending the audience into a masterfully hilarious adventure for all ages.
The stage consists of a trio of actors, Rachel Landon, Brock England and Christopher Lee Gibson who play the dozens of characters in the story, each standing behind vintage microphones as if performing a grand radio drama from the past. Now while the radio play component of the performance lacked the grand melodramatic nostalgic narration known from classics such as the 1938 production of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, Landon, England and Lee were able to captivate the audience with their clever voice changes, ad-libs based on audience reaction and facial characterisations.
These characterisations perfectly complemented the thousands of comic panel projections of Tim Doyle’s artwork reminiscent of pulp sci-fi comics dating from the 1960s (think From Beyond the Unknown), with a simple colour pallet and dramatic line work. It would have been nice to see even more of Doyle’s salute to classic sci-fi charm such as his “Mysterion’s amazing Mesmogrifier” that was only fleetingly referenced.
As implied, the story line itself is a bizarre combination of classic sci-fi and comic book clichés, and while by itself would not hold up to scrutiny, the melding of live and pictorial elements gives each character a rich personality and was timed to focus either on the real life actors or their drawn equivalents to build upon each other during the performance. The pre-introduction on audience participation was perhaps unnecessary, though the crowd responded enthusiastically with a mix of boos, gushings and cheers (though mostly laughter) throughout.
The entire performance (apart from the artwork itself) is created live on stage and the skilful jazz pianist Harlan Hodges improvises the score for each individual performance. The true draw card of the performance is the Foley artist Kelly Matthews who, centre stage, creates all of the sound effects using an odd assortment of everyday objects and toys not in any way associated with their sound, and is able to give each effect its own unique characterisation through her own facial gestures.
The comic book genre is going through a revival period worldwide at the moment, and the time has never been better for independent creators in Australia to make their mark. Even radio dramas are making a come-back, with an excellent example being Melbourne’s increasingly popular Doctor Who inspired Night Terrace series. US-based Neulander and his troupe have successfully melded the two in a polished and novel performance that has now shown in over 170 different venues worldwide, and I hope we see more shows in Australia from this group in the near future.
Intergalactic Nemesis: Target Earth
Playhouse – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Wednesday 9 September 2015 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 13 September 2015
Bookings: 1300 182 183 or online at: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au
For more information on Intergalactic Nemesis and the graphic novel series, visit: www.theintergalacticnemesis.com for details.
Image: The Intergalactic Nemesis (supplied)
Review: Jimmy Twin