Intriguing science fiction thriller pushes the limits of stage performance.
Image: Kieran Peek Photography
Vincent is the last human being in existence, travelling as the sole passenger on a space craft seeking a new, habitable planet after the Earth’s landmasses are drowned by rising seas. He has known no other existence, raised by the benevolent, omnipresent Vi, the ship’s computer. Vincent takes care of his physique with regular exercise, and of his mind by solving brainteasers and riddles from his artificial companion. A discovery of system failures raises questions for Vincent, who begins to ask questions Vi cannot, or will not, answer.
Nick Maclaine brings the full force of his innate charisma to the role of Vincent, filling the stage with his solo spaceman’s daily routines and gradual exploration of the reality around him. Maclaine’s physical theatre skills invest the character with purpose and convey genuine fear of water on a dry stage. Maclaine interacts believably with the disembodied voice of Vi, performed by Jo Morris. Morris displays amazing vocal control, her voice alone creating the character of the computer that cares for its passenger to the best of its ability. From affection to concern to resignation, Morris carries the audience with the subtly nuanced responses of the virtual intelligence system. Emily David is energetic and appropriate in the various roles she is called to play in the simulation suite, occupying cheesy characters and uniforms with aplomb. Her dramatic skills are tested in the portrayal of the enigmatic other occupant of the ship, David managing to deliver cryptic lines with hints towards a hidden truth, without becoming annoyingly over-vague. The playfulness of David’s mysterious character is nicely judged, saving her from becoming a drifting irritant.
Scott McArdle’s script impresses, directed to achieve the full effect of layers of revelation lifting away scene by scene, disclosures paced at precise intervals to maintain interest and suspense. Even though David’s cryptic character seems out of place, she adds a further dimension to pique the curiosity of those who enjoy a good ghost story, and the closing twists make her presence fall into place in a satisfying manner. The casual references to events between the present day and the time of the future narrative add dense, plausible information to the presentation, satisfying the science-fiction requirement of a complete backstory.
Sara Chirichilli’s set design is amazing. The slick, technological design is even more impressive being built into the fabric of the Blue Room Theatre rather than on a large dedicated stage. Cunning use of video on hidden flat screens as well as large wall projections ties Warwick Doddrell’s AV design closely with the performance, enhancing the feel of being on a near-future space craft. Sound design by Tim Brain ties in closely with the script’s developments, and McArdle’s lighting design is used creatively, memorably combining with tricks of perspective painted onto the floor to create a pool within a flat, dry space.
Second Chance Theatre have brought an intense, intelligent work to the stage, entertaining through its spectacle as well as through an enthralling narrative. Between Solar Systems changes the parameters of possibility for independent productions in a black box theatre, and for science-fiction on stage, generally.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Between Solar Systems
Writer / Director / Producer / Lighting Designer: Scott McArdle
Performed by Nick Maclaine, Jo Morris and Emily David
Presented by Second Chance Theatre and The Blue Room Theatre
The Blue Room Theatre, Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge
8-26 September 2015