An industrial sponge, two white gloves and a pair of googly eyes – not the most obvious ingredients for a sci-fi action hero. Yet it’s more than enough material for The Last Great Hunt theatre company, creators of ‘Bruce’ and formerly familiar to Fringe-goers for their Pixar-esque weepie, ‘The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer’. ‘Bruce’ and ‘Alvin’ display the same epic scope and intimate affection for movies, but the sponge doesn’t quite reach the same emotional depths as his predecessor.
We join our eponymous hero in space, where he shares an emotional moment with his love interest at ground control before attempting a dangerous re-entry. A nifty flashback later and he’s in a bar, before barreling through a plot that references buddy cop movies, ‘Back to the Future’, Woody Allen, ‘Interstellar’, ‘The Dark Knight’, ‘Terminator 2’ and many more.
Performers Tim Watts and Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd are incredible at imbuing Bruce and his several co-stars with life and emotion – especially when you pinch yourself and remember that, yes, it’s just a single industrial sponge on stage. Like Bruce, the script is also a deceptively involving beast, with much more to it than meets the eye.
It’s not entirely surefooted – there’s an unnecessary and misjudged drug reference that sours one sequence, and the plot’s comical adherence to big budget blockbuster clichés result in an emotional climax that feels a little hollow. Nevertheless, Bruce is a believable and compelling sci-fi action hero – and that’s one hell of an achievement for an industrial sponge, two white gloves and a pair of googly eyes.