Captain Harrison is the universe’s greatest pilot and its bravest, most handsome captain. He’s on a mission to confront his nemesis, drink space-champagne, and sing ballads about his dead wife – and nothing’s going to stop him.
George Vere is the world’s most egomaniacal writer and it’s lankiest, most self-aggrandising actor/director. He’s on a mission to expose his artistic genius, perform the world’s most brilliant sci-fi space opera, and make out with the more attractive members of his cast – and nothing is going to stop him.
Nothing, except perhaps an untimely cast rebellion.
The play has a tangible air of misfortune from before the start. As we enter, the stage isn’t set up, an actor isn’t in costume, and Vere is manically handing out torn and crumpled ‘programmes’. We’re treated to some hilariously uncomfortable audience interactions as Vere singles out those who haven’t taken his leaflets and engages in barefaced flirting with a woman sitting in the second row. Once the lights are set and the actors finally in place, the rest of the play begins: welcome to George Vere’s The Starship Osiris.
The show is hyper-aware of its ‘fringe-ness’, allowing it to perfectly parody the disastrous show that anyone who has spent time at the fringe will have seen
We’re quickly introduced to the crew of the ship: unwavering sidekick Evans (played by the totally unenthusiastic Aiden Willis) and three peppy and overacted space cadets – Lexi, Roxy, and Trixie. And so, the mission begins, complete with dire special effects, hammed-up acting, and so-bad-it’s-good musical numbers.
The insurrection that soon occurs is marvellously built up to. Evans’ disinterest turns to defiance after becoming the butt of one too many jokes, and after launching a mutiny (and banishing the captain to a black whole from which he can ‘never, ever come back’) this further develops into a frantic mania as Willis takes control of the show. There’s some wonderful naturalistic acting here too as the three cadets variously try and keep the show on track, jump onboard with the mutiny, or just attempt to leave entirely. The rest of the show plays out somewhat as you might expect, with Vere attempting to wrest control back from Willis, ad hoc script rewrites, and audience members dragged up on stage to fill in for missing or disobedient cast. The play is another excellent entry into the genre of meta-theatrical farce; tightly executed, only lagging on rare occasion, and keeping an audience laughing throughout.
manic, brilliantly conceived, and consummately acted – and it’s well worth seeing for the humour alone
What The Starship Osiris has which other shows in this genre have lacked, however, is a perfect sense of setting. The show is hyper-aware of its ‘fringe-ness’, allowing it to perfectly parody the disastrous show that anyone who has spent time at the fringe will have seen, complete with questionable US accents, awkward audience interaction, and technical glitches galore. It combines this with some very funny sci-fi parody, the script strewn with pseudo-scientific jargon and bizarre sound effects, to great effect. Starship Osiris tries to be more than your standard meta-theatrical farce, and for the most part succeeds with aplomb.
All this combines to make an exceptionally funny show; manic, brilliantly conceived, and consummately acted – and it’s well worth seeing for the humour alone. But for those who have returned to the Fringe year on year; for those who sometimes feel Edinburgh’s relentless festival spirit gradually grinding down their will to continue, it’s a perfect dose of comedy catharsis. “Fuck the Fringe!” Vere rants alone on stage. “Fuck Three Weeks Magazine. Fuck Underbelly. And fuck the Fringe.”
We’ve all been there, George.
The Starship Osiris is playing at the Edinburgh Fringe, more information here.
Image: Willis & Vere