Bod Shanks reviews 'Star Bores III - The Random Menace', performed by OY! Theatre at Otley Courthouse.

OY! (Otley Youth) Theatre set out its stall with the title for its latest production - this just had to be a comedy! And, indeed, the title did not mislead. However, anyone who has seen previous productions by this hugely creative young people's theatre company will not be surprised to learn that the themes of the play delved into a number of more serious issues.

OY! Theatre's young participants make up all of their plays (and accompanying music) from scratch, with the help and guidance of professional adult drama and musical directors.

The complexity and sophistication of the characters and plot in their previous plays has been consistently impressive, and 'Star Bores' was no exception.

The play is set on board a spaceship, drifting away from an Earth ravaged and made useless by a blinkered human race. Earth's downfall is explained in Orwellian and environmental terms - 'all the little wars around the world had sort of got stuck together to make the Long War.....we were running out of places to put people, see' - as warfare and global warming create havoc.

It transpires (the plot unfolds gradually and subtly) that before Earth's ultimate demise, the powers-that-be herded any survivors onto huge spacecraft in hope of finding a new habitable planet. The obvious candidates to pioneer the survival of homo sapiens - doctors, teachers, engineers etc - had their own ships.

But, on our particular ship, we find only a bunch of useless celebrities - hence the title's play on words. The redemption of the seemingly vacuous and self-centred celebs, who gradually develop self-awareness, altruism and common sense, is effectively used as a metaphor for the hope that the human race can learn from its mistakes and thus avert disaster.

The plot starts to unfold when the celebs are woken from their sleeping pods by a computer malfunction. Also on board are the ship's crew (in fact, androids who are programmed only to carry out the most banal tasks), a pair of spoilt-brat hijackers intent on bringing revolution to the universe, and the mysterious 'caretakers' (who turn out to be, literally, the caretakers of the human race). Redemption for all of the characters is achieved - each in their own way - when they finally learn to work together and make sacrifices for the common good. The plot is set against a near-constant supply of absolutely hilarious dialogue delivered with clarity and timing by just about every member of the cast. Comic situations abounded - one of my favourites being when one of the 'it-girls' manages to clone herself by mistake, to her initial delight but eventual annoyance as the clone rejects vacuity and finds her own strength of purpose.

The hapless crew, the sulky, coffee-munching hijackers, the 'it-girls', the girl band (who, in another comic twist, are secretly hyper-intelligent), the 'post-post-modern' garbage artist and the crazed, vengeance-seeking heiress all developed their comic identities brilliantly.

The eerie music (all composed by the young musicians, and featuring live improvisation as well as pre-recorded tracks) and sound effects (even the space-age sound effects were made up from scratch, apparently using just a tenor horn, a clarinet and a computer!) added to the mood and atmosphere of each scene.

The minimalist set (another feature of OY's productions - physical theatre is very much their thing) was enhanced by excellent lighting design and, most importantly, by the energy and enthusiasm bursting from these admirable young actors.

Well done again, to OY! Theatre. Looking forward to the next one.

I am told that OY! always welcomes new members - actors or musicians - of any age from 12 to 18. No previous experience is needed - just enthusiasm - and there are no auditions.

Anyone interested should contact Amy (01943 850014) or Frances (01943 466256).