Only You Can Save Us is a result of the collaborative efforts of Sydney creative collective Sekrit Projekt, a team of five actor/comedian/director/writers with an infectiously enthusiastic mania for popular culture, storytelling and self-reflection. And it works. Only You Can Save Us is an homage to everything you love about the sci-fi adventure classics of your childhood. There are good guys, bad guys, explosions, training montages, dance routines, lasers and space bats.
The dashing Captain Hero, together with his team, Sarge, The Girl, Doc Science and, of course, dastardly John Villaine, are on a mission to find Utopia. It is a mission deeply rooted in the imaginations of all of us – those who grew up believing they could be the hero, those who channelled their first awkward teenage crushes into earnest pop songs, those who wanted to make a difference, and even those who thought there was no hope for them in the world. With corny monologues, heroically inflated chests, long distance stares and choreography reminiscent of that dance routine you put together for school assembly in year six, all elements come together in a fantastically fun hour where torches and balloons are all you need to board an intergalactic spaceship and journey into a cartoonish, utterly joyful world of imagination.
On the surface, the lasers, space bats and explosions seem to allude to a classic pastiche of B-grade sci-fi, but this show is so much more than that. It celebrates the imagination, and yes, the nerd, in ways that reach beyond the aesthetics and mechanics of adventure quest narrative. A range of textual references from Star Wars to Shakespeare and The Last Starfighter to Emily Brontë, and its introspective examination of archetypal characters and theatre conventions make this a delight for the nerd in all of us. The tongues are set just far enough in cheek for an earnest and endearingly optimistic tone that plays self-awarely just on the fringes of cynicism without becoming overloaded with either cheese or irony. Captain Hero may be the Chosen One, but does this make him the hero for all of us? The root of the show’s success is the space it gives for all characters – and their stereotypes – to shine. Each character is a cog in a larger machine, and without each piece, even the tremendously dastardly villain, no hero could ever succeed. So strap on your helmet, set your lasers to stun, and let Sekrit Projekt take you back to a time when you really could save the universe.