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Suspended in Space (Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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With her acting career in decline, Jennifer accepts her first booking at a convention celebrating the long-cancelled TV show Suspended in Space. She has a tense meeting with Vince who has turned his bit part in the show into an ongoing income by appearances at conventions. They are horrified to meet Gregory - a loquacious fan with little appreciation of personal boundaries. Things get even worse when the lift in which the trio are travelling gets stuck.

Director Phil Dennison sets the mood for the play with a fine selection of TV tunes and achieves a startling and very funny entrance for one of the cast. But when the play gets going it doesn't go very far.

The basic premise – that the characters cannot physically escape each other and are compelled to travel internally and achieve maturity - is hardly a new concept. At the start it is very easy to guess the outcome. Strangely, writer Keith Temple does not emphasise the aspects of his play that make it stand out from the norm.

The reaction of the audience makes clear that there is a high degree of sympathy with points made, and recognition of the type of characters featured, in the play. It is possible that Temple is being cautious and does not want to risk offending people such as actors and fans who are gently spoofed. But it is a shame that he does not explore in greater depth themes such as the relationship between artists and fans – and what each party gets from it.

There is an excellent example of a character using TV shows as a kind of emotional comfort food but the extension of this fascinating aspect to a more general audience is not attempted. Even the exploitative role of conventions in turning a profit from the passion of fans and reducing artists to shabby salespeople is not discussed in depth.

Suspended in Space is a gentle comedy but its structure and approach are far too familiar to allow the type of developments and surprise that make a show a classic.

- Dave Cunningham