Voyager, New Diorama Theatre - Review

Just the other day, it came to light that it wasn't Isambard Kingdom Brunel who designed the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol but Sarah Guppy, a Bristolian mother of six who gave the plans away for free for the public good. One of the exciting, growing trends within theatre is the number of stories of women's contribution to the world of science, engineering and technology. Women have always been at the forefront of such endeavours. It's just that their stories are seldom told.

Last year, theatre company Idle Motion's Shooting With Light delighted audiences and critics alike with its compelling take on Gerda Taro and her experience as a wartime professional photographer with Robert Capa. Their latest play, Voyager, follows Carrie (Grace Chapman) and her connection to NASA's Voyager deep space probes. The play begins with schoolteacher Carrie, attending her mother's funeral. Emotionally choked by the occasion, she's unable to finish what she wants to say and even though her final words were read out by boyfriend Ben (Julian Spooner), Carrie doesn't feel she's had closure as she never got to verbally outpour her feelings at that time.

Tape recordings left for Carrie by her mother Catherine prove to be an unexpected source of solace. Not only does she find out that her long deceased father worked for NASA, Catherine spent time there as well, both helping to compile the sounds and images on the Golden Records that the Voyager probes carried. The cherry on the cake is that Catherine saw Ben as the same husband/father material as Carrie's own father, which spurs her to ask for his hand in marriage. And then there's that opportunity for a schoolteacher to travel to Mars...

The play's white backdrop is used to good effect for projections, especially those relating to space travel and the heavens, while its different compartments allow for all manner of transitions between scenes. The cast of six work effectively as an ensemble, playing a number of roles and using choreographed movement to wordlessly convey the fluidity of people with their surroundings.

As for the message of the play, for all the talk about the great beyond, at its core is a very human story about a strong, modern woman trying to reconnect with her mother – tapping into her adventurous spirit and continuing further on that journey to the stars. The recordings of Catherine's voice bring everything into focus.

© Michael Davis 2016

Voyager runs at the New Diorama Theatre until 11th June 2016.


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