How I Hacked My Way Into Space by Unlimited Theatre
Hat Fair, Winchester [30.06.17]
*Review produced as part of Hat Fair Young Critics
We are sitting outside the Space Shed. And for a moment, I feel like I’m about to experience a live, space-themed version of Nina and the Neurones (which would be a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon). There’s some serious build up, almost a good twelve minutes worth but, part of that of course is due to a late start. Visually not much is happening but, there’s lots of space jargon being chucked about by an unknown voice. Lift off is taking some time but, we’re getting there. Some smoke shoots out of the bottom of the shed and then the music kicks in, something similar to a high speed version of the Octonauts theme tune. And finally, a spaceman arrives in time for lift off. A cross between Fireman Sam and Flash Gordon, Jon Spooner welcomes us into the Space Shed.
We’re inside and well it’s like being in a low-tech, not time travelling, tiny tardis. Jon opens his story enigmatically, telling us about his school years, fears and dreams and, telling us just how much he wants to go to space. We’re about to here how Jon hacked his way into space. And what happens when someone’s about to bend your ear? They do the quintessentially British thing of putting on the kettle… followed by spritzing some water over a few plants. From here on in, Jon will be referred to as Big Jon and his miniature plastic sidekick, Little Jon.
What ensues is a lot of toing and froing between conversations between Big Jon and Little Jon (welcome to their
cafe space shed) and Big Jon on the phone to numerous people ranging from Tim Peake to the European Space Agency to his wife. The phone calls are a plenty and whilst the idea behind these interactions is clear, they take too much of this piece of theatre outside of the theatrical world that it is residing in. This level of external activity causes said world to develop cracks and this weakens the overall experience. I wonder if it may have been more engaging for Jon to have performed the conversations – with him playing both participants. He did this at one point to illustrate a conversation that he and Tim had had. A little more of this to replace the phone’s starring role could have made this piece much more exciting and humorous. Given those conversations legs would have also given this piece more immediacy and allowed it to move with an exciting pace. The distancing in this piece made it feel quite long on top of the fact that it was already running 20 minutes over time.
Verdict: How I Hacked My Way Into Space is a show with great potential and is highly educational. However, this rocket didn’t quite make it off the ground unfortunately.