Saturday, 22 September 2012

Aliens in the Arches: an Aristotlean Appreciation

The strict interpretation of the three unities - time, place and action - may not have been respected by the ancients (even Aeschylus liked the occasional change of scene), but the structure of Alien War pays careful respect to Aristotle's strictures. Located in the basement of an arts venue, the site of an alien incursion some twenty years earlier, the script is admirable in its simplicity. The protagonist, a burly marine, short on personality but big on ammunition, guides naive thrill seekers to the safety of the merchandising area.

The central agon, when the aliens breach a secured vessel, is concise: a burst of machine gun fire replaces the verbiose speechs, and the resolution is worked out not by the philosophical meanderings adored by Euripides but the true power of this world, the bullet. The traditional role of the chorus is taken by the audience - shades of Brecht in the comprehension rejection of the fourth wall - and the prologue becomes a series of safety announcements.

Despite the short running time, catharsis is, at least, partially achieved: there is no lack of fear when the big fucking alien emerges out of the wall, and the pity for the two teenage girls next to me is relieved only when I realise that their terror is ephemeral. Stripping away the expected features of theatre - the stage, the characterisation - allows this site specific -performance to attain an unusual intensity.
While a t-shirt may be a fine souvenir at the end, a better marketing tactic might be underpants featuring the distinctive alien logo, to replace the ones I just shittted.

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