SPACE PLAY – Vault Festival

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Laura KresslyLeave a Comment

Guest reviewer: Michael Davis

In recent years, tales of space travel have been making more of an appearance in theatre. While the Royal Court showcased Alistair McDowall’s X last year, the Fringe scene has had mature, high-quality productions of its own – including Emily Holyoake’s Stasis and Curious Directive’s Pioneer. Space Play, which has been running at the VAULT Festival, looks at the aftermath of orbital collision with space debris, inspired by the events of the film Gravity.

The only survivor on the mission is Michael Damon (Mark Knightley), someone who never  trained to be an astronaut. He is only an artist and as the mission is a commercial venture run by a company headed by Magnolia (Harriet Madeley); the criteria for personnel is of a more flexible nature. Damon certainly doesn’t have the right stuff that 20th century test pilots and Apollo mission astronauts had. He desperately wants to make contact with the Earth – so that he can impress his ex-girlfriend.

When the play begins, it initially shows footage of two very different films involving space travel: 2001 A Space Odyssey and Armageddon. Inwardly I groaned. Did this mean they were going for something that had moments of brilliance, but for the most part unintelligible? Or could we expect the other extreme: a subpar, cliché-ridden tale, with an irritating song from Aerosmith? Thankfully, the footage was in some ways a form of misdirection and Space Play itself manages to at least follow its own path.

While Knightley is very believable as the hapless Damon, it is Madeley (who plays Sophie, ex-girlfriend Nikki and Magnolia) who one remembers, playing three very distinct female roles –  their only similarity, they are not afraid to act.

While Space Play‘s set design and projections punch above their weight (provided by Lauren Pratt and Martin Dewar respectively), what saves this production from being all style and no substance is its propensity to subvert expectations. Asides from having a leading character with very few likeable or redeeming qualities, the notion of future space travel operating on the same ethics of major corporations is a chilling one. In this scenario ‘Major Tom’ has been stitched up by a multinational conglomerate, who treats human life as cheap and expendable.

Space Play runs through 29 January.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

 

Laura Kressly on RssLaura Kressly on Twitter
Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.
Read more...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Laura Kressly on RssLaura Kressly on Twitter
Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.

Leave a Comment