‘Dark Sublime’ review

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
Dark Sublime, Trafalgar Studios, 2019
© Scott Rylander Simon Thorp

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Marina Sirtis stars as a former sci-fi actress facing up to her past in this warm-hearted comedy

A theatrical love letter to 1980s British sci-fi television, Michael Dennis’s ‘Dark Sublime’ is both a nostalgic voyage and a timely look at contemporary LGBTQ+ relationships.

Marianne is a jobbing actor with a sardonic perspective on the industry she’s been part of for four decades, well aware of her fading position in that world.
In steps Oli, a young devotee of cult TV show ‘Dark Sublime’, which Marianne starred in back in the ‘80s. She initially has reservations about connecting with a ‘fan’, and her lifelong best friend Kate warns against it, but Oli’s nervous passion offers her a much-needed ego boost and she agrees to be the star attraction at the first ever ‘Dark Sublime’ fan convention. This provides her with a new insight into the strange, outrageous fictional world she hasn’t visited for almost 40 years, but it also dredges up hidden truths from her past. Her relationship with Kate is put under pressure, and she is forced to face up to her feelings so she can move on.

Making her West End debut is Marina Sirtis, who brings a mix of caustic wit and vulnerability to Marianne. Sirtis is perfect casting, given her many years on TV show ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. Dennis has written a terrifically funny script, particularly the scenes from ‘Dark Sublime’ itself that are intercut with the ‘real’ action. Marianne’s self-deprecating sarcasm allows for a lot of laughs. But there is a serious undercurrent to a play that explores what it means to be an older woman in a world and industry that prizes youth. 

It also takes a look at what it means to be an older woman who is a lesbian; the moments with Kate, played by Jacqueline King, and her new girlfriend Suzanne, played by Sophie Ward, are particularly endearing. It’s refreshing to see LGBTQ+ relationships at the heart of the narrative rather than being lip service.

Funny as it is, the script does at times feel stilted. It often seems like characters are just making cutting remarks to each other rather than having real conversations; it’s sometimes hard to believe there is love and intimacy when they are constantly confrontational and cold. It’s a bold play, nevertheless, with many laugh-out-loud moments, and will surely appeal far beyond the expected sci-fi fan base.
 
By: Zoe Margolis

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