Tuesday, 13 August 2019

EDINBURGH FRINGE REVIEW: If I Die on Mars at theSpace @ Venue45

The Queen Mary (University of London) Theatre Company have booked four shows into theSpace and If I die on Mars is the latest to open for the first of six performances. It seems a timely play as we are engulfed by the effects of Global Warming , celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing and talk of travelling to Mars and space holidays grows. The play is partly verbatim theatre, partly reimagined and explores the process of recruiting for a one way trip to Mars and the real life failure of the Dutch company that started that process. As someone notes there is only a 30% chance of reaching Mars. 

The five young actors play multiple roles and at times we lose track of which they are and the whole show is simply staged using five white stools and a screen with projection of planets on. The direction by the writer Clarice Montero keeps them moving for much of the opening scenes which is a little distracting from the words being spoken but the stools are put to good use shining torches through the whole to create a star sky scape. 

The stand out performer is Peter Smart who has the most authoritative voice and the best comic timing. When he takes centre stage he takes control and even eating a bag of Quavers he makes a delightful mouthful of every bite as he sits with the others watching a reality TV show to select the first astronauts. There is good support from Andrew Atha as a twin competing to join the trip and from the three actresses Abigail Whitney, Sophie O'Connor and India Raniol. We seem them being interviewed for the job and for some explained reason discussing no sex in space.

The play makes you think about what it would take to undertake a one way trip to Mars over 240 days and the impact on family and friends. Is it enough to be remembered as the first to make the Trip? As someone says 10 died before the Moon Landing , that must be why they called it Apollo 11! It also raises the debate of would it not be better to spend the money on saving (terraforming) earth rather than flying to Mars? Are those aspiring to join the mission Lunatics (of the Moon?) or is it Suicide?

The QMTC are to be congratulated on creating a piece of drama with a powerful and thoughtful message, staging it effectively and simply and sending back into the chaos of the Edinburgh Fringe wondering about the future of civilisation itself.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: unreserved | Price of Ticket: £8
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