I have always been in awe of those committed individuals who would dare to take on the challenge of space travel. Having been a fan of the movie version, I tuned in with high expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed.
It is 50 years this year since the aborted lunar mission took place in April 1970, and so it is fitting that on the anniversary that writer Torben Betts has penned his play using the original transcripts as his guide. Using the same creative team that gave us the wonderful online plays ‘Birdsong Online’ and ‘Watching Rosie’, the skills needed to create the effects, have clearly been sharpened by practise.
The introduction allows the joining together of two time periods. We meet Jim Lovell 2020 (Philip Franks) and Fred Haise 2020 (Geoff Aymer) who are being interviewed by a researcher (Poppy Roe) during the pandemic, about their experiences during the Apollo 13 space mission. This is a nice touch as they take on a narrator role which gives the show a framework, using their joint history as a running order for the scenes. This is needed as there is a lot of information to take in due to the technical nature of the subject.
When the Apollo 13 mission went ahead, the space programme was no longer flavour of the month with the media or the public as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had already walked on the moon in 1969 and there had been other successful missions since. The crew consisted of Jim Lovell (Christopher Harper), Fred Haise (Michael Salami) and Jack Swigert (Tom Chambers) with Lovell being the only one with space travel experience. They were guided by mission control and the voice of Capcom was played by Jenna Augen. She was the voice in their ear giving them the benefit of the knowledge of a large team of experts, who helped to get them home.
The creative team had already had the challenge of designing the effect of World War 1 tunnels and trenches in Birdsong, but now they had to transfer their skills into Space. Designer David Woodhead and crew excelled themselves in creating the set designs as we glanced between the Aquarius space module and the external view of the spacecraft as seen from space. The directing team of Alastair Whatley and Charlotte Peters faced the challenge of partly relying on the actors to shoot their own footage at home. Harper, Salami and Chambers had to quickly get to grips with shooting in front of their green screen whilst ensuring they were in shot and accurately delivering their lines, and all this whilst making us believe they are under great stress due to their life-threatening situation.
The whole team at The Original Theatre Company can congratulate themselves on a job well done. They have, once again raised the bar in producing a riveting online production which appeals to a wide audience.
The Play is available to watch until 31st December with a running time of 70 minutes and an age guidance of 11+.
To watch the play go to https://originaltheatreonline.com/productions/4/apollo-13-the-dark-side-of-the-moon where you can buy a ticket.
Reviewer: Caroline Worswick
Reviewed: 8th October 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★