BLOG Doctor Who: Midnight Live… Sort Of

All talk without a timelord. John Cooper reviews the Live stage version in Manchester

I missed The Crash Of The Elysium when it was in Salford, and I’ve yet to get a ticket to the Doctor Who Experienc Be.ut fear not, I’ve had my slice of live action not-quite-doctor who and I loved it.

Midnight is a new live staging of the Russell T Davies-written story from series four, in which the Doctor boards a shuttlecraft cruising across the planet Midnight with a handful of passengers. The craft comes under attack from a malevolent invisible force which annoys and terrifies by repeating everyone’s words, like a problem child attempting to annoy their parents gone horribly wrong. The televised episode was shot almost entirely in a small shuttlecraft setting and was character– and actor-orientated, playing out almost as live. So it’s an inspired choice which lends itself perfectly to theatre.

The Lass O’Gowrie pub in Manchester, which already has some Doctor Who affiliations under its belt, houses a small theatre space, and feels like a perfect fit for Midnight. Playing to its strengths, the production – which can seat only 28 punters per performance – is staged in such a way that you feel you’re actually in the shuttlecraft with the performers.

With the approval of Russell T Davies and some respectful dialogue alterations to remove any copyright infringement or continuity, the play is a fresh, robust piece of creepy claustrophobic standalone drama. The main protagonist – an unnamed traveller (because of those copyright considerations, obviously) – was bound to come under some scrutiny as most Doctor Who fans, myself included, have strong opinions about what makes a great Doctor even when for legal reasons it’s not actually the Doctor. Mike Woodhead’s portrayal is an easy going mix of Eccleston and Tennant and was very watch-able but could have been a bit more assertive.

The cast are all impressive, in particular the cool, assured shuttle hostess (Jane Leadbetter) and the superbly dedicated Zoe Matthews as Sky Sylvestry. The televised episode was impressive enough; however watching a live performance of the poor possessed Sky repeating all the other characters’ dialogue in synchronicity is a tour de force that ramps up a palpable sense of tension in this slick, technically ambitious and well-directed production.

As part of its Midwinter Festival, as well as Midnight, the Lass O’Gowrie is also running an adaptation of Alan Moore’s The Ballad Of Halo Jones, and later the month a one-man play inspired by life of Patrick McGoohan, played out as an episode of The Prisoner.

Midnight runs until the 8 January at The Lass O’Gowrie, and if they ever do the play again I’m going to put myself forward for main part, donning a Hawaiian shirt, Bermuda shorts and sporting a massive beard and a sonic ironing board under one arm.

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