With 2019 marking the 50-year anniversary since the first man stepped foot on the Moon, this year’s Fringe is peppered with space-themed shows commemorating the “giant leap for mankind”. Apollo: Take 111 takes a more eccentric approach by exploring the popular conspiracy theory that the Moon landing was faked: the perfect premise for a farce. Unfortunately, just like the faked mission writer Tom Proffitt’s jokes never land, leaving the audience disappointed and the actors’ energy wasted.
In Apollo: Take 111, a disillusioned government worker is given the crucial role of preparing the fake Moon landing due to an administration error, leading him to hide a world-renowned director and several self-important actors in his basement so that he can meet this all-important deadline. On the surface this plot has great potential, but it is let down by poor writing and humour that relies on misspoken lines and artificially bad acting. References to Stanley Kubrick, Marlon Brando and Lawrence Olivier indicate that the play is well-researched but poorly executed, with Proffitt relying on cheap gags and planned mistakes to elicit humour.
The biggest problem with Apollo: Take 111, though, is the complete lack of clarity in the writing, which prevents any kind of development in terms of plot or characters. This is most evident with the two Russians sent to spy on the protagonist and his patriotic project. Donning the stereotypical furry hats and borderline-offensive accents, these stock characters are given a couple of scenes to bumble about on-stage before apparently disappearing into space, adding nothing to the story except confusion.
The small cast bring all their energy and imagination in their portrayal of the paper-thin characters, turning the production into compelling evidence of their commitment to their craft. With each actor’s role constantly changing, and the only props at their disposal a few battered cardboard boxes, the fact that the audience can just about follow what is going on is a testament to the actors’ talent.
The premise of Apollo: Take 111 holds so much potential for a good old-fashioned farce, however Proffitt’s convoluted writing and reliance on cheap gags renders this potential unfulfilled. Perhaps it is the fact that the writer does not believe in the conspiracy-theory world he is creating that leads him to think that the ridiculousness of the premise is enough to elicit humour and farce. If so, he is astronomically mistaken.
Apollo: Take 111 is on at Studio @ Zoo Southside
At 16:15 until 26th August
Buy tickets here
Image: Beth Carter