SPACE age theatre
has arrived at the Mermaid, where "Rockets in Ursa Major" opened
on April 11. With no less a personage than Professor Fred Hoyle as author,
one assumes that the scientific side of things is beyond reproach, but theatrically
"Rockets in Ursa Major" is considerably less advanced than, say,
"Treasure Island", and a great deal less exciting.
The opening scenes are impressive enough, when the news comes through that
a spaceship which Britain sent up thirty years before on a deep space probe
has been traced and is about to land. The crew are found to be missing,
only a cryptic note giving a clue as to their fate.
Promptly despatched Into outer space is a scout ship, which finds itself
in the middle of an interplanetary war and quickly returns to Earth to give
warning that invasion is imminent and that cosmic disaster is nigh.
So far, so good, but at this point Professor Hoyle remembers that his audience
is British and that cosmic disasters must be brought down to size. He therefore
injects what is presumably meant to be some satirical comedy into his tale
and introduces some wavering caricatures of cabinet ministers, presided
over by an unflappable premier.
That the author has not much more idea than the rest of us about what the
denizens of outer space look like is demonstrated when the invaders, who,
as it turns out, are friendly, arrive on the scene. Dressed as though they
are fugitives from some impressionistic ballet and including in their number
an attractive young lady in black tights and a silver breastplate, they
speak an ingenious language of Professor Hoyle's devising which he has called
Galactic. This tongue, while incomprehensible to unflappable prime ministers,
can be picked up quite easily by boys of twelve, apparently.
The climax, the averting of a literally scorched Earth, is accomplished
in masterly British fashion by a young man in sports jacket and flannels
who goes up in yet another space ship and calmly blows up the sun, a feat
which is illustrated on a screen quite effectively.
The Mermaid's technical resources are utilised to their utmost and fortunately
help to immunise one against the quality of much of the dialogue. As a holiday
entertainment for schoolboys, which is, after all, Bernard Miles's primary
intention, "Rockets in Ursa Major" has much to commend it. The
cast, led by Ian Macnaughton, Julian D'Albie, Gregory Phillips, June Thorburn,
James Grout, Morris Perry and Roy Patrick, give the impression that they
believe every word of the play and such enthusiasm deserves to be infectious.