Moby Alpha

Aug 27 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩   Skilful sci-fi

Assembly George Square Studios (Venue 17): Thu 6 – Mon 31 Aug 2015

Well thought out and clever, this adaptation of Moby-Dick set in space by Seattle-based duo Charles has an individual visual style, based on a clever use of low-level technology.

Herman Melville’s book certainly lends itself to left-field interpretations, being heavily symbolic and featuring wild divergences in tone and style. In truth, however, no knowledge of the book is necessary here, as beyond the basic framework of the story, it jettisons much of the original. If you’ve heard of Captain Ahab, the whale and ‘call me Ishmael’, you know more than enough.

Moby Alpha. Photo: Charles

Moby Alpha. Photo: Charles

What would be helpful is some knowledge of science fiction. The script is riddled with references to the likes of Trek, Alien and 2001, and even though it would still be funny without any insider knowledge, it is considerably enhanced if you can spot the references.

Charles call themselves ‘unibrow sketch comedy’ and it is this willingness to be both clever and stupid that impresses here. Although billed a ‘comedy’, this is a tightly constructed piece. It has a unifying narrative that means it is far better structured and scripted than a great many Fringe theatre pieces. Chuck Armstrong and Charlie Stockman are capable actors as well as talented comedians, and the combination of the two works far better than it might.

Armstrong has written for The Onion, and it is that dry-as-dust, slightly quizzical tone that is probably the best reference point here. The jokes go beyond the usual ‘people in red shirts get killed on Star Trek’, and would be pleasing both to aficionados and outsiders.


In the end, however, the storyline does not quite have the content to sustain itself, with the last ten minutes being relatively disappointing. What remains impressive is the technology, with the pair’s specially constructed LED space helmets helping to provide lighting, differentiate between the characters and supply the low-level special effects. Aside from the helmets, there are virtually no props, scenery or other aids, but the two performers provide a sufficient variety of characterisation and situation to keep things going.

This is a comparatively unassuming show – who could fail to love the ‘probably the only adaptation of Moby-Dick set in space you need to see this Fringe’ tagline? However, it is largely successful, and pretty much the sort of thing that is the backbone of the Fringe. Recommended for any fans of science fiction or geeky space helmets.

Running time 1 hour
Assembly George Square Studios (Venue 17), George Square, EH8 9LH
Thursday 6 – Monday 31 August 2015
Daily (not Monday 17 or 24) at 4.10 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website:
Charles website:

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