City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Humans Inc. Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 12 August 2013

Show details
C Venues - C
The Alchemist
Running time: 
Luke Clarke (writer / director) / designer), Anthony Stephen Springall (composer / designer), Charlie Robb (designer).
Jonathan Stephenson (Isaac), Louise Trigg (Eva), Janet Etuk (Nova), Eleanor King (Jack), Lily Levin (Lola / Tilda), Luke Clarke (B / Rat Man), Adam el Hagar (Chief / Luther / Tobias).

"A Sci-Fi Epic on Stage". Not words that you see very often, but The Alchemist company have decided to boldly go where no one (or very few) has gone before.

In doing so they will have become aware of one of the laws advanced by the science fiction writer and "prophet of the space age", Arthur C Clarke which states that "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible".

This futuristic detective thriller hybrid sees down at heel investigator, Isaac (as in Asimov) having a particularly bad day. A space ship has crashed on his beat, his wife is leaving him and he will die in the near future unless he can find the money to upgrade his bio-implants.

Luckily a new case might solve all his problems, but he will need to rescue Eva, the last pure human and his journey will take him through the city of Arcadia, beset with illegal activity, where people tend to disappear.

The plot plunders rather than borrows from just about every recent sci-fi movie, from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Total Recall, The Fifth Element et al. After rummaging in the genre's dressing-up box the show has come out spangled in its every cliché, trope and idiom as a rebel princess battles an evil corporation headed by a wheelchair using baddie. And yes, Eva's other half is Adam. It's partly to be expected in this territory but still comes over as a little hackneyed.

Another of Clarke's laws is that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic", so staging such a show was never going to be easy. They have adopted a fairly low tech approach of models and sliding doors beloved of the Blake's 7 school of wobbly sets. The use of lights, lasers and dry-ice is fairly successful and the promise of a flying car nearly takes off in a choreographed mime. What works less well is that the cast all run around making whooshing and whee noises like a bunch of children playing with toys.

It's difficult to know where The Alchemist are going with this; whether it's intended as a serious epic as advertised or as a playful homage to science fiction or an out-and-out spoof. It may have appeal as a children's show, although it is recommended as PG. On the basis of last year's production of "Sealand" we know that they can act and so the pantomimic performances are inexplicable.

A brave attempt but in need of an upgrade. As one of the characters asks, "Could your best be better?".

Show times

8-26 August 2013, 6.10 pm.

Ticket prices

£9.50 (£7.50) to £11.50 (£9.50). Children £5.50 to £7.50.