Nick Mohammed in Apollo 21

Review by Hannah Thomas | 11 Aug 2009

It’s been forty years since man first walked on the moon, surely the glossiest emblem of human achievement to date. Over that time the journey made by Apollo 11 has maintained a strong presence in popular culture, spawning an army of films, books and plays competing to represent the event.

Now comedy enters the fray to mark this year’s anniversary with character-comic Nick Mohammed’s unique take on the mission. Rather than focusing on the grand designs of the space race, Mohammed imagines the voyage’s more tedious details through the astronauts’ differing perspectives and paints a picture of petty squabbling, jealousy and loneliness. It’s a strong concept, but one Mohammed fails to exploit due to inherently weak material.

Buzz Aldrin and Michael (Mike) Collins are Mohammed’s primary characters, who share the unfortunate trait of extreme stupidity. Though this method of characterisation ensures Mohammed a few cheap laughs, the device also renders Aldrin and Collins largely unbelievable and results in rambling monologues that are entirely devoid of wit. Instead, tedious anecdotes, repetitive jokes and lazy observations are used to carry the show.

This is a shame: Mohammed is clearly a talented actor but his characters are poorly considered. The show is well structured, with signposts projected onto a screen signalling each chapter of the voyage, from 'Medical' and 'The Night Before' to 'Life on Board'. Props related to each segment are used liberally but with limited success: while the artfully constructed 'launch' is wonderfully imaginative, the 'medical kit' remains largely redundant. Apollo 21 is a show brimming with ideas, but lacking finesse in their execution.