Friday 9th December 2022 at Soho Theatre, London.
Reviewer: Jonathan Walfisz
Few plays have titles more on the nose than Lesbian Space Crime. At the Soho Theatre’s Upstairs space, the show opens with a bold declarative song saying we’re in for a bit of exactly what it says on the tin.
Lesbian Space Crime is very loosely based on the true story of NASA astronaut Anne McClain who in 2019 was publicly outed as a lesbian when her ex-wife falsely accused her of attempted fraud during her stay on the International Space Station.
In Airlock Theatre’s production, McClain is now Sue Allbright and ex-wife Summer Worden is Gaia, the flat-Earth-theorising hippie terror.
From the off, Lesbian Space Crime is an all singing, all dancing ode to the camp comedy in sci-fi, with Robbie Taylor Hunt playing the C3PO equivalent homopromorphised computer system TWINC. Technological Wireless Interface for Navigating the Cosmos if you’re being specific.
Hunt is a fantastic foil with a charming performance and some of the best lines of the play. There’s a joke about the definition of ‘custody battle’ that would be my nomination for pun of the year.
As Allbright’s ex-wife Gaia, Eleanor Colville is riveting. Equal parts panto-villain, Wicked Witch of the West Coast, and dejected partner, the sheer amount of effort Colville is putting into every lavender-scented shriek is palpable. Routinely hilarious, Colville even manages to imbue the character with momentary flashes of genuine depth as an understandably hurt partner forced to the sidelines by her closetted ex-wife.
The rest of the show’s characters are played wonderfully by Elizabeth Chu. A brilliantly funny character actor, the play’s self-aware writing puts her in endless awkward positions as she cycles between the Matrix-inspired embodiment of NASA to Allbright and Gaia’s young son Jimmy. It’s as the space mission’s doofus male astronaut Brett that Chu shines most. With drawn on abs, he grunts and gyrates occasionally delivering incongruous nuggets of queer theory.
All the mayhem of the supporting cast – and there’s a lot of mayhem – orbits around astronaut Sue Allbright, portrayed excellently by Rosanna Suppa. In a show that doesn’t take itself seriously at all, they are surprisingly convincing as a dashing American astronaut. Suppa is the show’s ‘straight man’ ironically, giving a clear headed performance that provides structure to the storyline. They still get some great lines though and deliver them brilliantly. A particular favourite was a recurring gag about everyone in NASA’s culpability for killing a chimp.
Near the end of the show, it drags its feet slightly in a queer-dream sequence delivering the somewhat unexplosive message that being yourself is good, even if the US military would rather you weren’t. But that’s a minor foible compared to the rip-roaringly fun journey to the ISS and back that Lesbian Space is.
In terms of sheer hit-rate for jokes, Lesbian Space Crime is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen this year. The fact its hilarious premise is based on a true story is the cherry on top of a particularly silly cake.
Lesbian Space Crime is at Soho Theatre until December 22nd 2022 – you can find more information and tickets here.