CUFF Review: Alien On Stage doc a real-life, feel-good Waiting for Guffman and Full Monty

Admittedly not a bright human being. And one that chose to go into things blind.

It was nonetheless a good 30-minutes into the British CUFF film Alien On Stage where it became fully clear that this charming little export was, in fact, a documentary.

For much of that time, there was that nagging feeling, but there was also an eclipsing annoyance that it might not be, and if that was the case, had nobody who greenlit this film seen mockumentary classic Waiting For Guffman or the last 30 minutes of Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Or is that all they’d ever seen?

Smalltown theatre group, led by interesting director, very amateur actors, attempting to do something different, larger than previous efforts and more personal, and then realizes production is supposed to be played for laughs, enjoys great success in staging of said production for a room full of lovers of irony.

Sound familiar?

True story.

No, it actually is the true story of a loveable small-town underdog arts group who fail upwards to a wonderfully inept London staging of their homage to Ridley Scott’s classic Alien, and it’s as charming-as-an-alien-bursting-through-the-prosthetic-stomach-of-a-bus-driver — so, very. And, yes, the film is a documentary. A special one. 

It’s one that has the same spirit as presumably fictional (now I have doubt …) and undeniably charming, overseas fare such as The Full Monty and the adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s The Van or even the Commitments, and are also blessed with an accidentally better and cheaper script than those aforementioned films. And more realistic acting. Or bad acting. Bad good acting? Bad acting, good non-acting? Living?


All you need to know is it’s a crowd-rousing doc, where directors Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer, let things play out, give them a helping hand as the ragtag troupe of transit employees travel from seeming failure in Dorset to a packed house in the West End. It’s a naturally unfolding story that casually lets all of the innocent incompetence and effort play out  — including the special effects process, the seeming lack of concern or even interest in line learning, the almost childish, arts-and-craft set making

It’s a rare joy, where the good guys win and, well, so do we, cheering on, almost in real time, people punching above their weight and producing something that’s so genuine that it’s hard not to be pulled in by it, charmed by it and the people making it happen.

If you need further confirmation, look no further than the fact Alien On Stage earned the Best Documentary Feature at this year’s CUUF.

Deservedly so.

I think.

Alien On Stage screens as part of this year’s Calgary Underground Film Festival until May 2. For information, go to