At 7.30pm on Tuesday evening, the lights are still on in the Tesco Express in Summertown. For the next hour, a steady stream of customers will file through the checkout, scanning milk and vegetables, while out front Boss Kebab rears up to offer the meat portion of the night’s takings.
Unbeknown to them, just a few doors down, the lights were about to set on an altogether different stage.
In the auditorium four actors welcomed guests to the theatre with an aggressive enthusiasm. Rosa wanted to know if I was interested in Science or Technology, while Callum, taking a seat on my left asked, “Have you ever seen a UFO” before proceeding to take a selfie together on his phone.
The theme of the show is, as you might have guessed, aliens, and through the course of an hour the audience is taken through a series of dynamic scenarios ranging from abductions to sightings to a clipboard quiz to identify any aliens in the room. The participatory nature of the show provides a dishevelled charm, and the highlight are moments of improvisation from the energetic cast.
Audience interaction is enough to give many reviewers shivers - and this reviewer is sadly no exception - but credit should be given for the kindness with which participators were involved in tonight’s performance. In one of the first scenes, a gentleman from the front row was mortified to spend a good 10 minutes on stage drawing a picture of an alien as described to him by the cast. The pay-out was worth it, however, for the grand reveal, which left the audience in stitches and the volunteer vindicated for his troubles.
Another highlight was a dance-break scene, featuring some of the sensationalist alien-themed headlines proffered up by the darker corners of the internet.
A softly-strung David Bowie soundtrack underlay some quieter detours in the evening and drew the scenes together with a hint of the surreal. For the most part though don’t expect a provoking show: expect instead some light, fun, experimental theatre, with only a small amount of prompting from stage left.