Alfie White: Space Explorer, Pleasance, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Tall Stories
Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchell (writers and co-directors), Bek Palmer (designer), Peter Harrison (lighting design), Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw for Jollygoodtunes (sound design)
Jordan Turner and Lucy Tuck
Running time

Young Alfie White (Jordan Turner) lives with his Gran (Lucy Tuck) because his Dad (and Mum) have disappeared. Alfie has convinced himself that his Dad is not around because he is training to be an astronaut.

His obsession with space travel and space itself makes him a rather obsessive, isolated child who seems like a nerd to his classmates at a time when even travel to Australia seemed as far away as the moon. Eventually, Alfie finds friend in Meg Harris who helps him find clues about the whereabouts of his Dad who told him always to ‘look up at the stars’.

This show is a mix of fact and fiction is inspired by co-writer Toby Mitchell’s childhood experience of having no idea that his father had once been a famous jazz musician in the Malcolm Mitchell Trio that actually recorded the tune that features in the show Spaceship Boogie in 1954. The tragic true story of the Apollo 1 mission where 3 astronauts, one of whom was called Edward White, lost their lives is also woven in to the play and is the catalyst to exposing Alfie’s lies.

The set for this bright children’s show is a blue mini cosmos with a circular boomerang and starry symbolled bed with a mini yellow and red rocket above it. We learn right away that the closest Alfie has been to outer space is when he makes his climb to his Gran’s eighth floor high rise flat. His daily life is shown with a feel of the old TV kids programme Playschool with Lucy taking on a range different characters throughout with eager, cheerful skill.

This is a touching story dealing with loss and friendship that holds a nice message about different kinds of space and the importance of being comfortable in your own one. But there was not enough direct engagement to either quite carry that message or to hold the attention of fidgety young children for whom 1967 is positively antediluvian and the idea of records in fancy sleeves to play music pre-historic. It’s a pity Alfie’s poor Mum who went home to her land of Oz barely gets mention.

5 to 30 August (not 19th), 2.05pm.