Directed by Graeme Thompson, Alison Scurfield’s debut play was a moving and heartwarming piece brilliantly brought to life by Aiden North and Tyler Dobbs, respectively Johnny and Hassan.
Intergalactic (Petals and Constellations) ticked every box, and that night at the theatre turned out to be an emotional journey which found its way to the audience’s hearts without any difficulty. I laughed— mainly—, I cried— a little—, and overall I had a great time. The performance wasn’t just enjoyable in terms of entertainment value, it was also an actual theatrical experience.
The audience was encouraged to focus on the characters as the stage was almost completely empty except for a block in the middle. Three screens at the back of the stage showed the different settings : a classroom, the sea, a starry sky. Although surprising at the beginning and quite fun, the screens were no way to distract us from what was going on onstage and were actually relevant to the story. While they are often a telltale sign of staging laziness, here it matched the theme of stars and the universe as a whole bigger than the characters.
As the play progressed, alternating—and overlapping— moments of intimacy and experiences of the universe’s immensity, the screens and music perfectly foreshadowed the play’s underlying conclusion. The impressiveness of the images shown onscreen involved the audience in the characters’ story. Effectively, the protagonists were not the only ones being subsumed into the universe. The sound designer, the stage manager and the production technician —respectively Dave Flynn, Gabriela Oliver and Taylor Howie— did an amazing job with this production which was truly breathtaking.
However, the success wasn’t all theirs and Aiden North’s as well as Tyler Dobbs’s acting was incredibly convincing, to say the least. The show opened with Johnny— Aiden North— explaining to his teacher why his project wasn’t ready and from the moment he set foot onstage, he made everyone laugh. North’s physicality and sassy gestures were hilarious. Every movement was perfectly executed and it was clear that he had worked very hard for this role. Tyler Dobbs’s character required less jumping around and less eccentricity, but he nonetheless gave it his best and was equally endearing. Especially, as a duo, they had great chemistry and it’s hard to imagine someone could have replaced any of them.
The play itself was very well-written and very well-structured. There was a depth to the characters and to the themes that allowed the performance to be more than a simple entertainment piece, and yet the optimistic tone with which grief was presented kept it enjoyable. Alison Scurfield effortlessly balanced tragedy, grief and teenage romance while the staging itself and artistic choices made sure to keep it light at all times— you can’t be truly devastated by Johnny ‘star boy’’s story when he is wearing a Brian Cox t-shirt. What completely caught me off-guard however was Hassan’s flashback scene with the off-stage voices which was moving and impressive, in terms of acting, lighting and sound.
Of course Intergalactic (Petals and Constellations) did use some tropes that I feel are overused— the dialogue consisting in ‘you don’t know me’ and ‘well tell me then, it doesn’t have to be that way’ in particular— but North and Dobbs made it work. Sure, some scenes were cheesy, but isn’t that the point of a teenage romance/friendship? It’s safe to say Live Theatre’s Elevator festival’s first show set the bar very high.
Tickets are still available, so don’t miss it!