REVIEW: Ollie is a Martian (Theatre Beating)

Out of this world  [by Andrew Parker]

Ollie is a Martian
Ollie is a Martian

Ollie is a Martian. Or to go into a little more detail, he’s a man in a nifty blue track-suit with hair like Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future and who sounds like Jemaine Clement on helium. Also he’s from Mars, represented by a red ball with a heart on it. He’s come to Earth, a planet he doesn’t fully understand in search of… well, a few things, but mostly just to comprehend it.

Ollie is a Martian is a show brimming with goodwill. It’s neither lewd, crude or in any way edgy (aside perhaps from one scene depicting a misunderstanding with a group of babies and a tube). It’s gently charming from the off as Ollie travels through a galaxy of corrugated iron stars on an Angry Birds moonhopper to some spacey lounge music. Despite its general lo-fi-ness, this is a strangely evocative version of space travel that calls to mind The Mighty Boosh, or possibly British children’s series Button Moon (Anyone? No? Okay, Moving on…)

Ollie himself is engagingly portrayed by Ollie Cox, a performer who has no trouble convincing us he may not be of this world. We recognise the signs; he’s an innocent who takes a great deal of pleasure in watching ants carry leaves and who gets terribly confused by the titles of popular chocolate bars. Cox stares at us with a mixture of wonder and joy and a little bit of bafflement (we don’t quite get ants, it seems). He’s a lot of fun and much of the show relies on his oddball charm.

In terms of story, the show is a bit of a threadbare thing. At times its about Ollie’s adventures on Earth (with a man called Thomas and his dog), at others about life back on the red planet, and the rest of the time it’s just about Cox being silly (which is not intended as a put-down, Cos’s silliness is always watchable). But it is held together by Ollie’s experiences as an outsider to our world, the feeling of being close to Earth but not entirely comprehending of it. There’s a lovely sequence in which Ollie imagines that Earth and Mars could be friends, so close do their orbits come. Melancholy and isolation bubble under the surface, though they rarely disrupt the good humour too much.

Ollie is a Martian is not a hugely complex show. It’s a depiction of an experience, inviting us to understand Ollie, both as a Martian and a person. It’s also guaranteed to send you out with a big smile on your face. Go on and take a walk in Ollie’s moonboots.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Nik Smythe

Ollie is a Martian is presented by Theatre Beating and plays Upstairs at The Basement until 7 June. Details see The Basement

BONUS: Theatre Scenes Interview with Theatre Beating’s Trygve Wakenshaw and Ollie is a Martian’s Director Barnie Duncan

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