Jurassic lark: Hollywood blockbusters retold at the Edinburgh fringe
Films get folk-tale reinterpretation for a theatre audience
When popular films are adapted for the stage, eyes tend to roll in anticipation of cynical exploitation. Yet several shows at this year's Edinburgh Fringe suggest something more creative - Hollywood blockbusters treated as latter-day folk tales.
Jurassic Park, Back to the Future and Terminator 2 have inspired shows that don't just indulge nostalgia but take it as their subject, exploring how, as the years pass, the emotional resonance of iconic blockbusters can shift and deepen in strange and poignant ways. They also strive, endearingly, for big-screen thrills on a small budget.
Superbolt - aka Maria Askew, Frode Gjerløw and Simon Maeder - has already earned plaudits for its gleefully goofy take on Jurassic Park. The company's version of the story is set in Lyme Regis, where Terry and his teenage children, Noah and Jade, welcome us to a screening of the Spielberg dinofest in honour of the children's late palaeontologist mother - before a technical hitch obliges them to act the movie out. It's huge fun, yet we're constantly aware of the film's function as a sticking plaster over this family's festering dysfunction.
For the Jacques Lecoq-trained company, the project promised a technical challenge and rich emotional terrain, as well as a new crowd. "There's something inherently pleasurable about seeing moments of a familiar film captured in a surprising new way," says Askew. "We've been taken aback by the level of enthusiasm and support the show has received. The widespread appeal of the film has enabled us to reach a non-traditional theatre audience."
The company's original story taps into widespread cultural changes, too. "These mainstream classics brought families of all kinds together, which seems to be happening a bit less today as we consume entertainment more individually," says Askew. "This is why the theatre is so vital. It brings people into a physical space to share in something."
WATCH: Trailer for Now Listen To Me Very Carefully
That idea is at the heart of Andy Roberts' new show, Now Listen to Me Very Carefully, in which he recruits audience members to help him remake Terminator 2: Judgment Day - a film Roberts was obsessed with when growing up. He has found he's far from alone in this, and his show gives others permission to unleash their inner T-1000.
"By using the whole audience in the round, we found it a lot easier for people to jump into and out of the action without too much pressure," he says. "The big-budget nature of the film never fazed me because it's never been about a direct recreation. It's about finding our version on the night."
The show is "a kind of sequel" to Roberts' last show, Predator, inspired by a childhood attempt to recreate the Schwarzenegger film with his older brother. Two decades on, he got audience members to help him finish the job: "I found people with a personal connection to the source material would throw themselves into it with passion and humour."
WATCH trailer for Back to the Future
Of course, this personal connection with the original film is the reason audiences come to such productions. Nathan Cassidy has created three comedy shows based on the Back to the Future trilogy, and he has found it vital to balance references and props that delight true believers with more widely resonant material about the passage of time and the challenges of ageing.
"It's almost like doing a kids' show with jokes for the adults too," Cassidy says.
It's a tricky balancing act: you don't want to disappoint those who show up because of their affection for the original material but, as an artist, you want to put your own stamp on it. For Cassidy, the Back to the Future films evoke not only flying cars but ideas about different stages of life, expectations and disappointments, even - given Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's disease - illness and death.
In a sense, all of these shows are about time travel: the difference between then and now, in terms of the emotions of individuals and families, and of culture itself.
When these blockbusters came out, says Cassidy, "we had less technology and more interaction. We've lost a sense of togetherness."
These shows - which will be at the Fringe during August - try to restore a little bit of it by reviving the dinosaurs, robots and time machines of yesterday.