Fab Cafe, Manchester
Fab Café celebrates science fiction cinema and television. It is the perfect venue for a play taking an affectionate look at shows that have enduring appeal despite low quality acting and dodgy effects. Unfortunately Rehearsal Space doesn't fit the bill.
Twenty years after the cancellation of TV show Professor Calamity the cast reunite for a convention. But time has not been kind. The star of the show Sir Gerald Blake (Charlie Allen) is physically and mentally frail and the romance between co-stars Alice (Lauren Rochford) and Casper (Paul Mackay) has degenerated into acrimonious divorce.
The sense of bittersweet regret at the deterioration of the cast and how their hopes went unrealised is missing. Rather than use Act One to set the scene, by showing Sir Gerald in full health and the initial stirrings of the romance between the co-stars, writer/ director Rylan Cavell indulges in broad comic material. But the script lacks humour and the director is not able to help the cast as they struggle with the technically difficult task of making comically 'bad' acting actually funny.
In its present form Act One serves little dramatic purpose and the emotional impact of Act Two is not achieved fully.
The depiction of fans as shrieking swivel -eyed loons comes close to being offensive. Only Rebecca Derrick seems at ease with her characterisation of an aggressive production assistant and a gushingly enthusiastic presenter.
It is very hard to determine the overall theme of Rehearsal Space and a final speech on how TV shows can inspire people towards unexpected goals feels tagged on rather than a rallying call. The play feels more like a work in progress than a finished product. It would benefit from revisions to draw out its emotional potential.
- Dave Cunningham