Theatre plug: Tea and Tentacles at Zeta Reticuli

This April, not to miss, is the world premiere of my play Tea and Tentacles at Zeta Reticuli, an original sexy science fiction comedy thriller. Because, if we’re honest, there is not nearly enough of that sort of thing on the stage.

Set on a starship, 40 light years from earth, a human crew of 6, along with the humanoid avatar of the ship’s mind, and an unduly annoying “morale-boosting” android, are on a mission to establish diplomatic relations with the ungendered swamp-dwelling tentacle aliens of Zeta Reticuli 3. How far are they willing to go to adapt to the aliens’ unusual practises? How will they cope when pushed to the limit by events, romantic rivalry and conflicting agendas? Will there be enough tea and cake to see them through?

Inspired by the ongoing discoveries of habitable planets, I realised that we humans wouldn’t wait for the comfortable and safe starships of Star Trek to be invented, but would push the envelope to visit any aliens we found, as soon as possible, never mind the dangers of travelling at a third of the speed of light or putting our bodies into imperfect suspended animation. And the principle of “write the play you would wish to see” demanded not only an original story with big ideas and real drama, but also human interest, romance and making the most of the comic potential of the situation.

It isn’t really about politics as we know it; the most political thing about it is probably – and I say this with a nod to International Women’s Day – that women have the better parts. The engineer, the scientist and the ambassador are all women and the ship’s avatar is played by a woman, and between them they have the greater part of the agency and do most of the driving of the plot. It shouldn’t be remarkable, it didn’t require any compromises in the writing, and I have to remind myself at times that this is unusual.

So I am terribly excited to see this work in production with a fantastic cast (pictured with me here)

and a brilliant director in Amy Gunn, fresh from directing new writing on the London Fringe, all supported by long-standing Sheffield amateur dramatic company Midland Players.

The run is 4-7 April at the University Drama Studio on Glossop Road, Sheffield, 7.30pm, doors 7pm. Tickets available here. Why not make a day of it and join the campaigning for our local elections and in support of our excellent new parliamentary candidate for Sheffield Hallam, Laura Gordon? Either way, I hope to see you there.

And if you are going to conference this weekend, do ask me all about it.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017, is a councillor in Sheffield and is Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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