Planet of the Grapes – a cava-crowned celebration of lockdown crafting

Invited to forget about the ills of the world for an hour I celebrate one of the few GMT opportunities to join Peter Michael Marino’s live figure theatre take for all ages, streamed live from New York, on the 1968 cult classic film Planet of the Apes. I fell in love with staged science-fiction since seeing a Cornish amateur production of Alien in London’s Leicester Square Theatre and imagined each vacuum cleaner hose as a humanoid praying mantis’ tail since. If you are a fellow crafty earthling who loves this kind of imaginative upcycled costume and stage design, Planet of the Grapes is for you. Mirrors, marble beads and video collages enable galactic time travelling through centuries and light years and homages to every DIY moon landing video ever made. Every now and again you catch a black-gloved finger or two, assuring that all Tic Tac boxes, corks, dice, keys rings and bottle caps land safely on a sardine tin boat in an ocean of bubble wrap: Five minutes in and I want to get crafting myself, to at least fold some paper planes!

Peter Michael Marino’s Planet of the Grapes – also a homage to the Dickensian toy theatre

Is that a face mask used as a background? Are the soldiers, the three cork astronaut protagonists meet after having landed on a new planet (after 700-years of travelling asleep), made of tea balls or actual bullets?

On this planet model train moss grows amongst reused Dionysus crowns of wine, and soon our cork heroes will be caught in satsuma nets by ruling grapes in an actual fight scene, driven by cocktail sticks and toothpicks.  A vain, progress-fearing grape scientist suggests experimental brain surgery on the foreign species to ease interspecies communication. His lab of sample tubes and the treatment the prisoners face in their breadbasket cages, reflects role-reversed inhumane mistreatments known through zoo scandals, maze rats, space monkeys and stuffed museum exhibits – here evolution has not exactly reversed but took a different loop or two and that is a brilliant way to prepare a conversation with younger viewers on missing links and why knowledge should never stand still.

“Our soundboard seems to have some grape juice on it”

The escape attempts lead through caves of bioluminescent fungi and all types of materials ever used to buffer the content of a parcel; Sackboy would have a jolly good time here. The end of the play is as iconic as the film’s and given an extra twist during the final applause.

No matter the age, I bet no one will resist holding a torch against a bunch of fruits next time they have a bowl of grapes in front of them and stealing the punchline from a pun-loving wine merchant sponsor, just before Van Grapehoven entertained us during the interval on the piano: I had a grape time!

on the piano tonight during the interval: Van Grapehoven

**** out of 5 stars

Planet of the Grapes was created by Peter Michael Marino and directed by Michole Biancosino. Music by Michael Harren and Michael Andrew; co-produced by Project Y Theatre Company & PM2 Entertainment.

Tickets for upcoming live performances online in April and May are available for $25 with reduced rates for students and further a Planet Party Pack available for viewers in the US.

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