We Are Not Alone (in the universe, or the world)

Damien Atkins says we’re not alone. And I believe him since he’s travelled well over 10,000 kilometres to tell Edmonton audiences this truth.

We Are Not Alone trailer

We Are Not Alone is Damien’s story of uncovering the history and truth of aliens and UFOs from the annals of history, speaking with those who have experienced contact with otherworldly beings or objects and even (maybe?) having an experience of his own.

We Are Not Alone is one part storytelling piece, one part theatre and runs until March 3 as part of Theatre Network’s season. And really, the thesis is best summed up by the show’s title: We are not alone.

In the universe. Or in the world.

Unless we choose to be.

The bulk of We Are Not Alone centres around a conference Damien and his director, Christian Barry, spent at a conference in Phoenix that was focused around aliens, UFOs and experiences had with both. From his interactions with conference attendees emerges a powerful theme: regardless of whether you believe in extraterrestrials or not, we live in a world where people want to be seen as special and for their stories to be believed. This truth is universal, no matter the topic or the people you’re considering.

Connection underpins We Are Not Alone, including the way Damien breaks the fourth wall periodically throughout the show in a way that feels so genuine and creates a connection amongst audience members and with Damien.

Damien Atkins looks concerned, holding a flashlight under his face, with the photo otherwise dark.

The show offers the idea that being alone is a choice. Through Damien’s retelling of his time at the extraterrestrial conference, we see you can choose to see yourself as special and set yourself apart. Or, you can choose to place yourself in a situation with a group of other people who also think they’re unique and be – for lack of a better term – alone together.

Another interesting thread which I would have loved to have been more fully unravelled in the performance is the idea of whose stories we believe. At the end of the day, many of the people Damien meets in the course of researching his show are people who just want to be believed and valued. A particularly potent moment in the show is when Damien talks about being in a room primarily full of women who most think are crazy, but who ultimately want to be believed. This anecdote rings true and hits hard in a Me Too world.

Damien is a masterful actor and storytelling whose skill is on full display in We Are Not Alone. The show is pretty barebones, and using just his body, mannerisms and voice, Damien fluidly and convincingly morphs into the many, many different people he encountered on his journey to create this play. His skill at this is exceptional and delightful to watch, even if you take nothing else from the show.

While the design is basic – reminiscent of Fringe shows even in the depth of winter – once you’re in the realm of the play, the lights, stools and chairs Damien moves around the stage create a really rich environment as they are illuminated by Kimberly Purtell’s brilliant lighting design. A particular delight was how the steel stool looked like a UFO in centre stage when the light hit it just right.

Whether or not you believe in extraterrestrial life, We Are Not Alone is about more than the subject matter it purports to discuss. It’s about connection, belief, and the power of theatre to form and enhance those bonds.

We Are Not Alone plays at The Roxy on Gateway until March 3. Tickets are $27 – $30 through Theatre Network’s box office, except February 19 and 26 when tickets are two-for-one. The talk-back night is March 1 after the show (approximately 9:30 p.m.).

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