Franklin J. Schaffner’s Planet of the Apes is one of the most important science fiction films of the 20th century, inspiring numerous spin-offs, sequels, and tributes. Planet of the Grapes is certainly one of the strangest, a play on words turning this otherwise loyal theatrical adaptation on its head.
Perhaps predictably for a one-man, live-streamed performance, it suffers from an unevenness throughout the show. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, and Peter Michael Marino’s peculiar fruit-based odyssey somehow manages to blend sheer nonsense with detailed critique that does its best to emulate the 1968 classic.
There is a lovely DIY feel to the projection art and the handmade sets, even if some of the snazzy lighting occasionally makes the action a little hard to see. At other times, however, the visuals are a genuine treat – the neon-painted inside of a cave in particular looks genuinely striking. Aside from being a tribute to epic sci-fi stories, Marino’s take on Dickensian toy theatre is equally obvious and just as delightful. With delicate, colourful handmade sets, Marino reminds us all that while home-based theatre may feel a little postmodern and empty, it has been around for much longer than you might think.
Planet of the Grapes is unavoidably weird. With grapes substituting the apes and cork toys representing the humans, this is a show that works best if you are willing to sit back and let Marino’s bizarre tastes work their magic. Slices of humour and a story that thematically sticks very closely to the film make sure that this is not an empty slice of silliness, but at the very least is trying to say something worth your time. Every now and then this message is lost, particularly during some of the dialogue breaks where your mind can easily wander elsewhere. But the way that it feels so resonant for the times we live in now is both a testament to the film’s longevity and Marino’s exceptional judgement in reinventing it in such an abstract way.
Planet of the Grapes is a family-friendly perspective on science, religion, and how knowledge is ever changing with the rest of the world. In that sense, its value speaks for itself. Even if you never really get on board with the wackiness and homemade set-up, it’s hard to overlook the wonderfully madcap creativity that has brought this peculiar little project to life.
Tickets available to buy here