Image: The Astronaut photograph by Jessica Russell.
The smell of freshly peeled citrus fruit throughout the foyer and theatre is a thoughtful introduction to the gentle and contemplative show that is The Astronaut. It immediately draws the audience into the ‘experience’ before the performance even begins.
Gwen is twenty-something, and is a shut in. For years she has not ventured outside – driven indoors by grief and human contact. Her house is full of the comforts and obsessions of the lonely. Elvis Presley acts as a time signature for the period in which Gwen is stuck, along with the 1969 moon landing that she sees as a glimmer of hope and possibility.
The set is a brilliantly formed three dimensional representation of the epitome of loneliness. Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles, tea, more puzzles, more tea and the ever present glow of the television: this is the tale of one woman’s journey through a part of life. If it is possible for something to be vague, yet eerily descriptive at the same time, this is it.
Having such a dark and focused set is actually very beguiling, as every set piece and movement by the performer is easily highlighted and even the smallest details can be picked up by the audience. The projections and compositions are beautifully crafted and this is one show that the skills of the stage manager are particularly apparent, as every light, sound and visual cue seem perfectly timed and executed.
This solo physical theatre piece celebrates the courage of the human spirit and its capacity to change. The work is a collaboration between performer Samantha Chester and Director Frances Barbe; inspired by Samuel Beckett and Chester’s background in dance and devised physical theatre.
As complete audience focus is on the lone actor, solo shows plays particular importance on the likeablility of the character, but Chesters passion and belief shine through wholeheartedly and it becomes a journey you don’t want to end.
This play belongs in an art gallery, as it is the type of performance you can walk in and out of, be pulled into and take things from at different points. An audience is invited to draw their own conclusions as to Gwen’s background and future, but her current situation has an inherent lonely cosiness that makes you want to share her journey and maybe even perch on the arm of the chair and peel an orange for yourself, or take up a puzzle piece and see where it leads.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Recommended for ages 16+
Concept & Performer: Samantha Chester
Director: Frances Barbe
Dramaturge: Julie-Anne Long
Lighting Designer: Matthew Osborne
Composer: Ekrem Mülayim
Designer: Isabel O’Neill
Part of the City of Perth Winter Arts Festival
The Blue Room Theatre
21 June – 9 July