“We create a virtual world. There’s no set. In a way, what we’re doing is TGI effects – Theatre Created Imagery.”
Gavin Robertson, creator, writer director and star of Fantastical Voyage , is about to take his bizarre SF theatre extravaganza – a Hunter S Thompson-style romp paying homage to Ray Harryhausen films, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Jurassic Park amongst others – on a triumphant return run at the Edinburgh Festival. The show first blasted onto UK stages back at the 1996 Edinburgh Festival, having had its world premier in Japan. But there have been a few refinements in the meantime.
“It’s like a movie,” says Robertson, who plays petty officer Tom Allison in the show. “As you go along you edit bits out. So it’s a bit like a director’s cut. It’s really refined and so quick now.”
Robertson was also the man behind the infamous Thunderbirds FAB production from a few years back, which had actors mimicking the string-pulled articulation of Gerry Anderson’s puppets with models of the rescue crafts on their heads. That broke box-office records at the West End’s Apollo Theatre in 1989. But it’s the “unashamedly silly epic” – as Robertson puts it – that is Fantastical Voyage which has dominated his life for the past three years; he’s taken it round the world – visiting Japan, Europe and South America along the way – but its first official British run will, surprisingly, not be until next year.
“The critics have been really good to us,” grins Robertson. “The worst notice we’ve had just said ‘this is fluff, but it’s entertaining fluff.’ One even said that we managed to ‘paraphrase the whole movie industry into one pyrotechic.’ I now feel safe to describe it as bloody funny, and not feel embarrassed.”
Not bad for a play that doesn’t even have a set, and regular company of six to eight people!
Don’t let that put you off, though. Here’s what the show has to offer:
- Two grown men playing a T-Rex
- An army of skeleton warriors
- A 100-foot tall bronze Titan
- A submarine
- A pirate galleon
- An entire jungle
“It’s inspired by Ray Harryhausen films, of course,” says Robertson, “but there are loads of other film references. Ray’s seen the show,” he adds, “and called it brilliant, which was a relief.”
If you want to experience Fantastical Voyage, you’d better get to see it at the theatre when you get a chance, because Robertson has no plans to release a video version. “These plays are based on TV and films, so putting them on video is a bit like putting the joke back in its original context, and it doesn’t work like that. You need to see these plays live. They only work in the theatre. And anyway, it all adds to the cultish feel of the thing if you have to have been to the theatre to see it.”
• Fantastical Voyage will be playing at the Edinburgh Festival from 8-29 August 1999. Tickets cost £5.50 and £7.50. Please phone the box office on 0131 667 2212 for more details.