Imagine if your amateur high school theatrical production was suddenly asked to perform on Broadway, with just a few weeks to prepare. That’s the kind of thing that typically provides fodder for anxiety dreams. But in Alien on Stage, a group of British bus drivers overcomes the odds to bring their amateur production of Ridley Scott’s classic 1979 science fiction horror film Alien to London’s West End. This winsome documentary made its international premiere at the virtual SXSW festival last week.
Per the official premise:
This is a story about a unique crew of Dorset bus drivers whose amateur dramatics group decide to ditch doing another pantomime and try something different. Having never done anything like it before, they spent a year creating a serious adaptation of the sci-fi, horror film, Alien; finding ingenious solutions to pay homemade, homage to the original film. The show is a crushing flop but fate gives them a second chance to find their audience.
Whilst still adjusting to the idea that their serious show is actually a comedy, the group find out they’re suddenly being whisked from their village hall to a London West End theatre to perform this accidental masterpiece for one night only. With wobbly sets, awkward acting and special effects requiring “more luck than judgement,” will their West End debut be alright on the night? This bus driving crew are our space heroes. Their bus station is our space station. Dorset is outer-space and where is the Alien? It’s behind you!
The amateur company in question call themselves Paranoid Dramatics, and most of the members are employed by the Wilts and Dorset Bus Company. When we first meet them, they’ve been putting on annual holiday pantomimes locally for several years as a creative outlet, with proceeds going to charity. Their production of Robin Hood in particular proved to be a smashing success with the locals.