Once Upon A Time (In Space)

Wed 8th – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

April Elisabeth Pierce

at 22:43 on 11th Aug 2012

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What would you get if you crossed a belligerent Dr. Who, edgy steampunk, gothic romance, childhood fairytales, and a rowdy crew of eccentric space pirates? You would end up with something very similar to The Mechanisms’ flamboyant musical performance of 'Once Upon a Time (In Space)'. If it sounds like an impossible combination, then perhaps the only way you might be convinced is by sitting in on the free event. This show was a real surprise - a thrilling, guttural steampunk-pirate mythology!

Using a series of interconnected tales, the merry band of marauders took turns storytelling, re-enacting scenes, and belting out raw, cabaret-style rock songs with wholehearted enthusiasm. Led by their fearless “First Mate” Johnny de Ville (Johnny Sims), whose charisma was evidently infectious, the band of space pirates embarked on myths and mishaps from a morbid reinterpretation of Old King Cole to a diabolical, adrenaline-fueled anarchic anthem. Whoever wrote these sets knew how to entertain.

Although lyrics were sometimes lost or mumbled, the elaborate fabric of the allegorical odyssey still made sense (mostly). A few loyal front row head-bangers, as well as unabashed, full-throttle momentum jettisoned the performance into a strange and twisted galaxy of successful revelry. Numbers like the final song integrated such evocative lines as “WAY-HEY the wormhole beckons” and “What do you do with a drunk space pirate?”. Nerdier narratives were less successful than fight songs, but the fight songs made up for whatever temporary lulls were endured by the full house.

Rusty razors, faulty engines, star-crossed lovers, and epic battles were no match for this bawdy gang. Although a few singers had weaker voices, all members of the band were included in the performance, and most of the major players boasted impressive vocal ranges. A plethora of accents were paraded out at various moments, and while only some of them could have been described as even remotely accurate, all of them were hysterical. Ruckus was had, disdain for humankind was entertained, and a massive applause followed. This was an utterly spellbinding performance -- not to be missed!

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James Fennemore

at 08:56 on 12th Aug 2012

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This Free Fringe production from ‘The Mechanisms’ could never be criticised for sparseness or lack of ambition. It bills itself as a ‘Steam punk Space-Pirate Musical Fairytale Cabaret’. It’s an effusive riot of vibrant, folksy flair.

The story-line is delightfully preposterous, encompassing space-warfare, battle, soldiers, destruction, and all with a gothic fairytale feel featuring characters such as Cinders, the Three Pigs, and Snow White. The performers are clad in vaudevillian burlesque outfits, and all have stage names as bonkers as the plot: Jonny d’Ville, Nastya Rasputina, and Gunpowder Tim being particular highlights.

This crazy story serves to propel the performers from one song to the next, which are played and sung with tremendous vigour and excitement. Most are famous folk-tunes which have had their lyrics replaced, from ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again’, to ‘Old King Cole’, to a final rousing rendition of their very own ‘What Shall We Do with a Drunk Space Pirate?’

The band is well rehearsed, and includes electric-fiddle, guitars, accordion, percussion and (a near inaudible) flute. There are a few sound-balance issues (the dialogue that takes place in between songs is occasionally unclear) as one speaker drowns out the other. Perhaps for these spoken sections the performers would do better not to use microphones. The singing is enthusiastic, but occasionally a little out of tune.

The stand-out performance is by Johnny Sims, who plays the charismatic lead, Jonny d’Ville. From his effusive flyering outside the venue, which drummed up an impressively full audience, to his bold and committed storytelling, Sims keeps the energy of the performance sky-high. His own singing is powerful and reminiscent of Sweeney Todd levels of mania.

Once Upon a Time (in Space) manages to fuse the folksy and apocalyptic into a fun and lively cabaret piece. It’s a little rough around the edges, but displays excellent verve and a vibrant gothic character.

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Comments

Shirley Summers; 18th Aug 2012; 00:43:54

Shirley Summers; 18th Aug 2012; 00:46:08

Tried to leave a 5 star rating but the site didn't let me...yet!

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