Words by: Mandy Moe Pwint Tu
Between Solar Systems, Second Chance Theatre and the Blue Room Theatre’s latest venture, was absolutely out of this world … and yet not so, which is a joke you’ll only get if you’ve seen the show. So how about this: go see the show and then come back and read this review, it’ll all make perfect sense. What, I haven’t convinced you with this ambiguous yet ultimately mindblowing gag? Fine, read on.
Written (under the tutelage of Finegan Kruckemeyer) and directed by recent Murdoch University graduate Scott McArdle, Between Solar Systems follows the story of Vincent (played by Nick Maclaine), the last survivor of a drowned Earth. Vincent has lived his life without knowing another human being, in a spaceship which he calls Home, looked after by the ship’s Virtual Intelligence, Vi, for short, voiced impeccably by the marvellous Jo Morris. As the ship begins to break down around him, Vincent embarks on a search for truth—but on a journey as perilous as this, the truth has some drastic consequences. And is the Woman who appears on the ship but a figment of his imagination?
The set, designed by Sara Chirichilli and built by John King, is magnificent. The instant you step into the theatre, you are greeted to a sleeping Vincent, blanketed by a celestial galactical whirl of stars. There’s a computer monitor on the wall, in between the two doors, which will later spring to life as Vi’s visual method of communication; and a drawn curtain over a part of the left side wall. The feel of the set is sterile and grey; and yet vaguely rustic, in that time has worn and torn at the ship, and here, in this once-pristine, sterile, yet decaying environment, the story takes place. The set itself is a reflection of the story, which I find absolutely beautiful. All this, combined with the fantastic costumes by Sophie Braham, takes this show to newer heights.
Scott McArdle, in his Director’s Note, writes that “we rarely see sci-fi on stage”, and that “we hope we can show you things not done that often on stage, that we can make you question and wonder and even, maybe, take your breath away.” It is true, we hardly ever see sci-fi done on stage, but Between Solar Systems has attempted this and has executed it with aplomb. The computer monitor, which I mentioned earlier, as Vi’s visual communication method, is as much an essential part of the play as any of the characters. The slides move seamlessly throughout the show, and you can see that a lot of work has gone into the making of this—the monitor is integral to the Vi’s part, and the technicalities involved in crafting this piece of technology, which, combined with Jo Morris’ voice, brings Vi to life.
The use of projection as well as lighting choices is done very cleverly in this play. From creating galaxies to shining sunlight, to spotlights that not only focus on the actor, but depict the characters’ plight as well—projection plays a great role in the show. All this, interwoven with Drew Krapljanov’s hauntingly beautiful music, gives Between Solar Systems an atmosphere as brilliant as the story itself is. Hats off to AV designer, Warwick Doddrell, sound designer Tim Brain, and lighting designer, Scott McArdle, for doing such a fantastic job.
The show goes on for 75 minutes, and from the very first second you enter the theatre, Nick Maclaine is onstage, and remains onstage for 72 minutes of the 75 minute running time. His acting prowess has been proven again and again in the many roles he’s undertaken, and Nick brings his A-game to Between Solar Systems. Nick embodies the humanity in Vincent perfectly. He is in turn heartwarming, comical, terrifying, vulnerable, putting on accents and taking them off, as well as switching characters as quickly as he runs on and off stage.
Jo Morris voices Vi, the ship’s Virtual Intelligence, and good heavens she is magnificent. Without once showing her face, she truly makes you feel for the character, her voice in her semi-robotic tone exhibiting annoyance, anger, affection, sarcasm, frustration, and vulnerability. Jo plays Vi in such a subtle yet powerful way that by the end of the show, you end up almost pitying her. There is an amazing about of humanity about her character, despite the fact that she is supposed to be an unfeeling machine.
Emily David plays ‘the Woman’, one of the many secrets in this show. Emily, alongside Nick, flits in and out of different personae, in turn commanding, playful, terrified, outraged, and uplifting. It was also interesting to see the dynamic between her and Nick’s characters change as the play progressed, and the blanks slowly started filling.
Scott McArdle’s dialogue is sharp, witty, funny, and is tremendously down to earth in spite of the science fiction nature of the play. No scene is out of place; the entire story is well-paced, and the audience is kept on the edge of their seats. You don’t have to be into sci-fi to enjoy this play.
Between Solar Systems is the best show I’ve seen in a fair while. It’s playing nightly at the Blue Room Theatre at 7pm until the 26th of September. I wholeheartedly urge each and every one of you to go and see it. Trust me, you won’t regret it.