Storm Mine picks up eighteen months after last week’s Robots of Death. Blayes and Iago find themselves stranded on a nearly deserted Storm Mine. Assigned a Voc robot to ensure her welfare, Blayes quickly finds that a number of changes are affecting the human and robot crew. With Kaldor City quarantined, will Iago and Blayes witness the death of their world – or the beginning of a new one?
Marlon Solomon’s Iago is now a ghostly figure in Blayes’ subconscious. Like a little devil on her shoulder, his vengeful and unhinged nature now comes to the fore in a chilling performance. His waspish one-liners are even more venomous than before. Whereas in Robots, there was an almost likeable quality to this stylish assassin, here he is downright rotten to the core. Solomon has expertly turned Iago around in a definitive performance of the character. Having him on stage instead of as a disembodied voice is a shrewd (and of course obvious) move as it allows him to roam the stage like the Grim Reaper himself as this ethereal presence.
Kate Millest continues to impress as Blayes. In Robots, she was the one in control, almost in her element. Here, Millest gets the chance to show us her more vulnerable side as she is lost and alone. Despite wanting to make the best of her situation and try and solve the puzzle that is plaguing the Storm Mine, she is ground down by those around her. Energetic and dynamic, Millest is a very impressive and precise young actor, and surely has a strong future ahead of her.
Interestingly, where Robots of Death was manned by a mostly female crew, the Storm Mine has an all-male crew; the only female image (other than Blayes) is V23. This allows for Sean Mason to further demonstrate how versatile an actor he is as the deliciously lecherous Chief Mover circles around a clearly uncomfortable Blayes adding another layer to the trap she finds herself in.
Morag Peacock’s V23 is a fine creation and a wonderful performance. She has nailed the servile robot voice down, but manages to drip feed emotion into her performance – especially in her disturbing monologue about the recurring dream she has. V23 may hold the key to the whole plot, and her change and transformation is fascinating to watch as her ‘feelings’ threaten to tear her apart.
Benjamin Patterson rounds off the cast as the Commander. Like a lost Captain Ahab, he is reduced to commanding the Mine as it circles round and round in its eternal figure of eight. Clearly a man in risk of losing his facilities, his permanently perplexed nature is brilliantly played by Patterson.
There is no doubt that Storm Mine is a complex piece that has a plot across many levels. But the sheer scale and ambition of the plot has got to be admired, and the efforts that Director Sam Al-Hamdani and his cast have gone to in order to bring this to the stage. Yet, against the odds, it works. There was much heated discussion after performances as audiences deciphered the clues within.
The gestalt is closing in.. or is it? Reality is evolving.. or is it? Or is Blayes dead or in a coma following the blood-soaked conclusion to Robots of Death? There is a real tangible sense of the walls of reality falling apart during this claustrophobic play that never lets up with its constantly questioning nature. The recurring motif that “we’re all in this together” could have so many meanings – is the gestalt’s collective consciousness – or are all the crew of the Storm Mine chunks of Blayes’ dying mind? Very chunky, meaty stuff to think about.
Storm Mine has been beautifully crafted and really challenges you to think about what you have seen. At times so specific but yet so vague it is an intense piece that each person can come away from with their own interpretation of what has, or might not have happened which is equally as valid as the next persons – not much fiction, let alone theatre can do that nowadays. I would wholeheartedly love to see further adventures with Solomon and Millest who have given us a strong alternate take on Iago and Blayes. Kaldor City was always one of the more consistent and enjoyable of the Doctor Who spin-offs, and now you have the chance to see one it’s most masterful chapters live.
The Fiction Stroker gives Storm Mine four strokes out of five: