The Starship Osiris

Sat 13th – Mon 29th August 2016


Christopher Archibald

at 09:49 on 19th Aug 2016



George Vere’s ‘The Starship Osiris’, which he wrote, directed, produced, and performs in (as we are repeatedly told), is about to begin. Dressed in tight leggings and a Star Trek-esque turtle neck, he is bustling around, bullying his wearied and underpaid actors and handing out badly folded programmes. After a brief introduction to this hysterical megalomaniac his play begins, but when the actors rebel, things turn ugly. This hilarious play takes self-parody to the extreme and carries its audience along with it all the way.

The play within the play is a wonderfully bad ego-trip for Vere; he forces the three female actresses to kiss him every five minutes ("it’s in the script"!), reassure him of how attractive he is ("and his legs in no way look weird") and quite literally sing his praises, while the much put upon Evans (Aiden Willis) remains the butt of every joke. It also cleverly parodies the sci-fi genre, with ridiculous pseudo-scientific jargon and Vere’s brilliantly terrible American accent. There are enough absurd songs and even more ridiculous dance moves to remain funny, without becoming grating. This knowingly bad play within a play does begin to drag a little, as the audience wonders when we will return to the delights of Vere playing his horrid self. Yet it is worth the wait and the show really gets into its stride when the actors begin to rebel.

Havoc ensues, members of the audience get drafted in to help, and Vere, holding back tears, makes a last ditch appeal to the reviewers in the crowd. Jo McGarry, playing Lexie, really comes to the fore in the second half: hilariously halfhearted as their play stumbles on, and vicious when it falls apart entirely.

The space is simple and slightly cramped, making the weird and wonderful makeshift props and costumes (including a full size coffin which is dragged on and off the tiny stage repeatedly) even funnier. The projection, music and sound system are effective, and the show is a feast for the eyes, even if on a small scale.

This is an undoubtedly silly show and will not suit everyone. One person does walk out halfway through, to which Vere responds with the lightning-quick aside "Thanks for coming". However, the interaction of onstage and offstage dynamics, and the structure of the piece are cleverly developed. Likewise, the sustained illusion of a play within a play is kept up from the outset. Willis and Vere are an amazingly talented double act, and this hour of silliness and fun is definitely worth seeing.


Ed Grimble

at 18:05 on 19th Aug 2016



Talented, handsome, a star of the stage shining brightly amongst a mob of mediocrity. That is probably how George Vere would describe himself. If he were feeling modest. In reality, however, George Vere is an arse. Writer, director, producer, leading man, programme hander-outer, and nail gun wielder, his self inflated ego is wonderfully infectious. The premise of the latest offering from Willis & Vere, whose previous shows have been very warmly received indeed, is a new sci-fi masterpiece from this director, even despised by his own cast.

What follows in this play within a play is an hour of preposterously ham-fisted dialogue, obscene on stage molestation by the Flashheart-esque Captain Richard Harrison (played by, you guessed, Vere), and an outer space thriller which makes 1960s ‘Doctor Who’ look positively blockbuster. Vere’s accent, a synthesis of almost every US state possible, butchers platitudes and clichés at an astonishing pace. All of his movements are either exaggerated, or botched: the speaker system precariously balanced near the proscenium is constant source of physical gags. And absurd pseudo-scientific vocabulary spews forth in abundance. This central play does begin to grow wearisome at a point- but only because it is clear that the audience want to see more of George Vere, strutting about in his homemade Star Trek uniform and constricting leggings, abusing his tired, underpaid, and unloved supporting cast.

What is simply wonderful about ‘The Starship Osiris’ is its meticulous controlled mayhem. By the two-thirds mark, the play has descended into something that has long since left ‘farce’ behind in the rear view mirror. Set is destroyed, cast members mutiny against the ludicrous and tyrannical Vere, an audience member even walks out of the show. This play is a masterclass in self-sabotage, and how a piece of dramatic art can be effectively razed to the ground. “There are fucking reviewers in today!”, Vere yells as his grip on his own production loosens further.

Its hard to make a judgement on the technical elements of the play. Pianist Ian Fleming is wonderful, but then he is gone by forty-five minutes and replaced by a stand in from the audience- who to everyone’s amusement seems to have a repertoire consisting solely of the theme from Top Cat. The audio-visual, which takes the form of Harrison’s live stream talks with his commander, and the evil Zaglar (all played by Vere, of course), is spot on throughout. The fact that the cues continue long after the script has been largely abandoned in lieu of on stage chaos has the audience in fits of laughter.

There you go George Vere, a four star review, are you satisfied now?


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