Back in the 1980s, Marianne (Marina Sirtis) starred in a sci-fi series called Dark Sublime. It wasn’t a global smash like Star Trek, rather a cult show, remembered only by a small group of devotees. When endearingly geeky Oli (Kwaku Mills) shows up at her house hoping to interview her and invite her to appear at a convention he’s arranging, she’s suspicious but also flattered; the two become close, united by a 35-year-old TV show.
Michael Dennis’ debut play has an intriguing premise but it’s dragged out over an unjustifiable two-and-a-half hours. Andrew Keates’ glacially paced, pause-laden production doesn’t help matters. It take aeons to set up the story and pads things out further with repetitious snippets from the show itself – fun the first time, less so the second, third and fourth times – featuring Simon Thorp running about the stage wielding what looks like an egg whisk while communicating with a prissy ship’s computer voiced by Mark Gatiss.
This structural bagginess is all the more frustrating as the play is one of humour and heart. It turns out Marianne once harboured romantic feelings for her best friend Kate (Jacqueline King), and this is explored with tenderness. The way the play equates fandom with unrequited love is interesting, as is its exploration of loneliness, nostalgia and television’s power to unite people.
Dennis can write a funny line and there are lots of industry-focused jokes. It’s also refreshing to see an emotionally complex relationship between two older women given such prominence, but this overstretched play is at its best when looking at fan culture in an un-cynical way.