A very amateur dramatics group of Dorset Bus Drivers spent a year creating a serious stage adaptation of the sci-fi, horror film, Alien. With wobbly sets, awkward acting and special effects requiring more luck than judgement.
Cast: Jason Hill, Lydia Hayward, Jacqui Roe, Susan Baird, Carolyn White, John Elliot, Mike Rustici, Scott Douglas, Penny Thorne, Dave Mitchell
Directors: Lucy Harvey, Danielle Kummer
If you like Ridley Scott’s Alien, cinema, theatre or just good vibes in general, you’ll get a kick out of Alien on Stage. If ever there was a documentary I finished watching and knew instantly it’d get turned into a dramatic movie one day; it’s this one. It’s prime for that feel-good drama/comedy.
A group of bus drivers in Dorset love putting on amateur theatre productions. Although, up until they decide to adapt Alien, they’d been nothing but pantomimes previously. The change of pace, production work and line-learning from the core cast is a massive change of pace, but if there’s anything you can say about the Dorset bus drivers, it’s that they’re committed.
There was a shortlist of other movies they considered adapting before Alien, one of which was The Hills Have Eyes, which — yeah, I’m glad that wasn’t the end product. To their credit, when it’s explained by the playwright who adapted the movie for the stage for the crew that he thought Alien would be an easy pick, he isn’t entirely wrong. Yes, it’s a lot of special effects, and there’s, of course, a big alien problem you need to solve, but the film is set primarily all in one location.
The first third of the film covers the backstory of the bus drivers and their extended family. All of which seem to work on the production in some regard. When it gets to their first, which is a bit of a flop, it’s revealed that the Alien on Stage documentary directors, Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer, both have a big part in what comes next. They somewhat pushed the production into the eyes of others and managed to get the bus drivers called up to London to perform in the West End Theatre for one night and one night only.
If the film’s first third is a laid-back bus driver, the following third sets up a lead in Jason Hill, who serves as a director on the production. The stress of getting everything to work and putting on a good show while still trying to have fun shows. But in the final third of the film, everything is revealed. It’s all show and no tell either as the documentary simply lets key scenes from the stage show play out intermingled with behind the scenes cameras to show the reactions of those involved. The final moments leading into the show are stressful as the cast struggles to remember lines, panic attacks appear to be brimming, and the production staff work to learn the high-tech gear the London theatre is using.