William Shakespeare is one of history’s most famous playwrights.
From Romeo and Juliet, to one of the most famous lines in history of “to be or not to be” from Hamlet. There as many iterations of this artform that I have had the privilege or witnessing. Whether it be a replica production, or an independent show inspired by his work, all of them have been fantastic. But this latest production inspired by the Shakespearian word is right up there as one of the best.
Shakespeare Aliens. No, that is not a typo, it is exactly what you think it is. Presented by Rob Lloyd Productions and Gasworks, directed by Rob Lloyd and written by Keith Gow, Shakespeare Aliens is a loving tribute to James Cameron’s iconic sci-fi classic, Aliens, spoken in Shakespearean tongue. You might be wondering how can that even work? But trust me! It absolutely does and it completely smashes it out of the park!
Held at the hidden gem that is the Gasworks Arts Park Theatre, I was greeted by a dimly lit theatre and by Rob Lloyd that suggested we take a seat at the front right in the middle, proclaiming it was not in a splash zone and completely free of audience participation. At the back of the stage was a large projector screen with a caricature of a Xenomorph with a Renaissance style ruff around its neck. There was also the faint sound of a rainstorm coming through the speakers and it felt like I had landed on LV-426 and was hunkered down in the drop ship. I was excited and the show had not even started yet.
Before long, the lights dimmed, and the show began. A lone figure walks onto stage and begins a classic Shakespearean style monologue. We quickly discover that it is Ellen Ripley, played by Cassandra Hart, just after she had returned to Earth. We are then introduced to everyone’s favourite asshole company man Burke, played by Danny McGinlay, and before long, the entire cast were on stage as their characters prep to embark on their dangerous mission.
We have Brad Allen as Lt. Gorman, Rik Brown as Bishop, Zac Rose as Sgt. Apone, Lore Burns as Cpl. Hicks, Seon Williams as Vasquez, Corey Glamuzina as Hudson, and Elysia Janssen as Newt. There is also an incredible puppet team consisting of Alex Joy, Lauren Kemp, and Lana Schwarcz. You might be asking yourself, why puppets? Well, it is about Aliens, and it would not be complete without some Xenos to make it realistic. Puppet maker, Donna Prince has completely outdone herself with these masterful creations!
The sound and lighting from Sandro Falce and Patrick Slee respectively, are equally as brilliant. The sound is perfectly timed to the firing of weapons and the lighting changes from shades of blue to red whenever a fire fight breaks out to really creates a sense of realism within the production.
Aliens is up there as one of my favourite films and the collective works of James Cameron fill out majority of my top 10 list. I can safely say that this production does not ruin the film one bit. If anything, I would say it is a perfect companion piece to the film’s success. I also made sure to watch the film before seeing this production to re-jig the memory and I’m glad I did because it helped me enjoy this production even more.
Keith Gow has perfectly condensed the almost two-and-a-half-hour film into a one-hour masterpiece whilst maintaining the film’s original charm. Even the classic lines from Hudson being twisted into a Shakespearean language are just as hilarious, if not, even funnier. This is exactly what makes Shakespeare Aliens so damn good.
From the already brilliantly talented cast, there were some clear stand outs. Starting with Corey Glamuzina as Hudson, I would have sworn he has been a Bill Paxton impersonator before because his execution of this iconic character was flawless. Danny McGinlay as everyone’s favourite asshole Burke, with his perfectly smug smirk and self-righteous attitude was another impeccable representation of the original character. Lore Burns as Cpl. Hicks with the way they leaned into the subtle desire for Ripley was hilarious. Seon Williams also makes an incredibly convincing Vasquez to the point where I wouldn’t want to mess with her.
However, the clear stand out of the entire production is Cassandra Hart as Ripley, or Ellen if you are on a first name basis. What I loved about her portrayal of one of history’s most iconic characters was how she pays tribute to Sigourney Weaver’s badass character whilst also making it her own. Hart slips seamlessly between Shakespearean monologues that also function as a narration (very clever, Keith Gow) and the performance of the character is a sight to behold.
Shakespeare Aliens is both a love letter to the artform of Shakespeare and the sci-fi epic that is Aliens. The production is very in-tune with the Alien fandom, so much so that it is not afraid to poke fun at the franchise and even borrow from some of Cameron’s other works. And whilst some of these references may fall flat for the casual Aliens and James Cameron fan, I greatly appreciated these little additions to the script and at times found myself slapping my knee in hysterics.
After missing out on seeing this show during their Theatre Works season earlier this year, I am extremely thankful that I finally got to experience this unimaginable yet genius mashup of Shakespeare and Aliens. And with only two shows left, I implore you to go and see this brilliant production.
Shakespeare Aliens is performing at Melbourne’s Gasworks Theatre as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. The final two performances are Friday 14th October and Saturday 15th October, with both at 9pm.
For more information and ticketing, visit:
Photography by Fabrizio Evans.