As the lights dimmed in Myra in Space, the show’s titular character, played by Kelly Nash, sat in a melancholic daze. She was processing the realisation that she’d sacrificed her life for her husband and children, her own dreams and happiness abandoned long ago. It’s a familiar story, in part due to its depressing prevalence in society, but the Myra in Space creative team wrapped it up into an endearing and engaging package.
On entry to the theatre, the audience was rocketed into space with the atmospheric use of dry ice, overhead set pieces that evoked the head of a rocket ship and a reflective floor so richly black, it seemed as if it could be space itself.
It was a fitting depiction of Myra’s inner world, and her desperation to fulfil her childhood wish of being an astronaut. While we were introduced to her husband (Greg Parker) and children (Annie Lumsden and Nicholas Jaquinot), the beating heart of Myra in Space was found in the relationship between Myra and her idol, the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova (Rama Nicholas).
Tereshkova was a figment of Myra’s imagination, but Nicholas’ performance, bouncing off the walls and pulling everyone in, made Tereshkova larger than life. Nicholas relished the comedic opportunities presented to her by writer Bridgette Burton and amped up the show’s energy with ease through audience interaction.
Burton has created a tender and electric relationship between Tereshkova and Myra that felt special to watch and something you didn’t want to end. It kept the work chugging along through moments of naff, on the nose, political diatribes and a few lagging scenes.
There were moments of refreshingly clever storytelling that showcased the playwright’s unique voice in Australian theatre. This wasn’t enough, however, to offset the play’s confusing third act, when the audience was wrenched from Myra’s inner world and the emotional gravitas of the story’s climax was given to Bruce, her husband. This centred his experience of guilt and seemed creatively contrary to everything that had happened on stage for the previous hour.
Despite this, there were still many moments to enjoy. Nash switched smoothly between vulnerable dramatic monologues and elated child-like joy. The spacesuit costumes by Siliva Shao fantastically mirrored the latter. They were absolute eye-candy, highlighting Shao’s ability to capture the story’s theme of reconnecting with one’s inner child through a few costumes.
Though there were a few hiccups, Myra in Space was an exciting showcase of Australian talent and storytelling that provided representation for older Australian women and, most importantly, was an entertaining night at the theatre.
Myra in Space by Bridgette Burton
Director: Alice Bishop
Cast: Kelly Nash, Greg Parker, Annie Lumsden, Nicholas Jaquinot and Rama Nicholas
Set and Costume Designer: Silvia Shao
Lighting Designer: Richard Vabre
Sound Designer: Nat Grant
Myra in Space was performed from 7-17 September 2023.