In a lonely upstairs Fringe venue off the Grassmarket, everyone can hear you laugh, as in her jumpsuit and Weyland Yutani patches Heather-Rose Andrews takes the stage in her One Woman Alien, playing to a small but enthusiastic crowd as she emerges from her hypersleep to arrive at the Edinburgh Fringe.
She has the look, she has the poise, she takes no nonsense, and she has a blackboard and chalk to create her own opening titles – without the aid of a man or a safety net. With makeshift props bearing inkjet printed labels to add a hint of authenticity, she makes it clear: “This is a parody, this is not the real Alien.”
Bringing minimalist stage versions of films to the Fringe is nothing new – Blue Velvet, a low flying Top Gun, the thirty-minute Star Wars and the one-man Lord of the Rings – but written and directed by Andrew Allen, the One Woman Alien is something different, not only a comedic recreation of the key scenes but a deconstruction of the film, its production and the period in which it was made.
For all the cynicism with which Andrews points out the casting of Yaphet Kotto as Parker was likely to target a demographic than a genuine attempt to represent diversity, it is her primary role as Sigourney Weaver’s warrant officer Ellen Ripley which is significant for the boundaries it breaks. “This character can’t be a woman; the jumpsuit has pockets.”
That the film can be analysed in this fashion is a testament to how iconic and important it is both as a science fiction horror film and as an unanticipated feminist text, with Andrews shifting through all the roles other than Jones, the MU/TH/UR 6000 unit and the various forms of the xenomorph, frequently simultaneously, even as she juggles alien eggs, acid blood, cattle prods and lots of coffee.
Pointing out the significance of Ripley and Lambert discussing navigational coordinates and how at every turn Ripley’s calm, measured suggestions are dismissed as overreactions by the men, while some characters are better realised than others – Ian Holm’s somewhat flat Ash is redeemed in his final scene – despite the familiarity with the subject Andrews does build tension and surprises among the many laughs. Just don’t sit in the middle of the front row.