“The Starship Osiris” Review

Willis and Vere presents The Starship Osiris

Stage One, 11th October 2016.

The premise of The Starship Osiris is a simple one. Richard Harrison, the charismatic and handsome captain or the titular spacecraft, and his crew of scantily clad female companions scour the universe in search of adventure, peril, and everything in between. Oh, and also there’s Paul, or whatever his name is. And the guy who sits at the side playing the keyboard and responds only with ‘Yes Captain’. And the guy who does the lighting and sound and makes the Starship Osiris’ arch-nemesis, who looks suspiciously like Captain Harrison, appear on the projector screen in the background. In fact, the more I think about the list of characters and their presentation, the more painfully obvious it is that the show does not take itself seriously. Yet, it is the harsh leadership and impossible ego of Captain Harrison that quite literally pushes the plot and the crew forward. And that in itself is the true nature of The Starship Osiris.

The real comedy comes from the crew’s inherent dissonance with its ‘brave’ and ‘noble’ captain and from the electric performances of Adam Willis and George Vere as Harrison and Paul. At times their back and forth, which carries and directs the show, escalates to an almost Brecht-like style of pantomime performance and is wonderfully supported and nurtured by the rest of the ‘crew’s’ manipulation of the theatrical integrity of the performance, and their own individual realities as ‘cast members’. This leaves us as an audience in a state of theatrical limbo, where we are eternally assessing the nature of the performance and therein the balance between real life and what we believe is cheap student fringe theatre. We are drawn into the struggle of Paul who becomes our emotional and rational connection throughout the madness, but as the show progresses into its second half, that connection is severed and suddenly the performance and the audience are thrown into chaos in every sense of the word. The Starship Osiris, both as a show and as a crew of space explorers, is torn asunder and this is where the fourth wall, after taking the heavy and repeated beating of a lifetime, is laid to rest in peace. Or so we would believe. But The Starship Osiris is full of surprises that question the very nature of the ‘fourth wall’ and of surprise itself. And while juggling all of this, somehow it manages to keep you guessing to the very end just how the show will finally come to its resolution both in our reality as observers of The Starship Osiris, and in the reality of its captain, Richard Harrison.

The Starship Osiris is a show that draws all attention to itself and then begins to self-destruct, kept only alive by the very idea that it must exist. It is painfully meta, to the point where if it was possible to feel cringe on a supernatural level, it would be suspiciously comparable to watching the inevitably tragic and hilarious plight of Captain Harrison. It is an adventure that physically drains, as balancing the struggles of the cast with belly aching laughter is an exercise in itself. The Starship Osiris is a black hole, with a smiley face drawn beautifully in the centre in a crude, scribbly mix of saliva and crayon. If this sounds like your kind of show, keep an eye and an ear out for the astonishingly talented comedy duo Willis and Vere, as they may be dragging The Starship Osiris, kicking and screaming, to a theatre near you.

Donny Weerasekera

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