Out of this world
New musical Cannibal Women of Mars shows off the Tron Theatre’s playful side perfectly. By Mark Brown
It’s the year 2113. Planet Earth is in catastrophic decline. A genocidal interplanetary president has decided to exterminate Earth’s massive underclass of unemployed and unhealthy people by sending them to Mars to be eaten by the red planet’s cannibal female population. A pair of Martian princesses are prepared to be initiated into the rituals of man-eating, but will they devour or fall in love with jobless Scotsmen Jaxxon McGhee and Largs Lido, who have no idea that they have travelled to Mars to be on the menu?
Such is the brilliantly absurd premise of new musical Cannibal Women of Mars, which takes up the often off-the-wall summer slot in the programme of Glasgow’s Tron Theatre. The show boasts songs by Mick Cooke of Belle And Sebastian, who also worked on the book with writers Gordon Davidson and Alan Wilkinson.
Who, I ask director Andy Arnold, is this somewhat bonkers musical aimed at? Belle And Sebastian fans? Rocky Horror Show fans? “I think it’s for both,” he replies. “Mick Cooke has written great songs. It also has a feeling of Forbidden Planet about it, and it’s a very funny piece.
“It’s part of what the Tron’s about,” he continues. “We do serious work – new plays, classic pieces and so on – but we also do the fairly vulgar at times. There’s a place for that, I think. It’s vulgar without being really tacky. It’s not blue humour or Benny Hill – it’s cleverer than that. It’s almost a send-up of that whole genre.”
In fact, Arnold says, Cooke’s songs, combined with the sheer chutzpah of the narrative, might just turn the piece into a fans’ favourite. “Gordon Dougall, who’s musical director alongside Sally Clay, knows a lot more about this sort of thing than me. He looked at Mick’s songs and said, ‘These are great. This could become a bit of a cult.’ Originally I listened to them on an MP3, when it was just one person playing and singing them, and I liked them then. Now that we’re working on them with the cast, they really do sound great.”
The cast itself is something to sing about, Arnold believes. The show, which has six actors and four musicians on stage, should be safe in the hands of such accomplished performers as Gavin Mitchell, Mark Prendergast, Helen McAlpine and Darren Brownlie. “They’re all perfect for it,” says the director, “and they’re all great singers as well.”
Difficult though it is to be even semi-serious about Cannibal Women of Mars, I can’t help but notice it is one of a number of current sci-fi dramas about a dying Earth. Two examples are Neill Blomkamp’s new film, Elysium, and Grid Iron Theatre Company’s show Leaving Planet Earth, which opens at the Edinburgh International Festival in August.
“Our show should be at the International Festival, shouldn’t it?” Arnold asks, with a rhetorical smile. “It would change the whole image of it.”
Cannibal Women of Mars is at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, July 5-20. For further information, visit http://www.tron.co.uk
This preview was originally published in the Sunday Herald on June 30, 2013
© Mark Brown