"You're going to be spy?" – "I'm not going to be a spy." – "That's exactly the sort of thing a spy would say!" What else can Jenny tell her boyfriend about the top secret mission she has found herself on; can she ever make him see that it’s bigger than just them, and does she even really understand what it entails?
The constellations twinkle in the darkened theatre. From the beginning, we’re shown how our history is linked to the stars: the navigating ships, the stargazers, the missions into space, and finally the 2026 Mars 1 mission, a catastrophic failure and our last attempt at space travel. This opening is a great idea, grounding us and introducing the story as it travels through history and then just beyond. Carefully navigating common dangers in the science fiction genre, this piece shows us a near future without being over-the-top.
Selected to be “ordinary”, a relatable face for space travel, Jenny's task is both to begin the colonisation of a new world that’s less broken than ours, and to rejuvenate the space programme after the last failure. She trains, she is studied and examined, and she dreams of floating weightless in space. But is she ready to never feel the sun on her face again, to never swim in the sea again, to leave everything for a brave new world?
That Jenny is not a knowledgeable astronaut provides a natural opportunity for scene-setting exposition, and this production very cleverly makes use of simple lighting props to represent holograms, tablets, scanners and other futuristic technology. The science jargon is mostly correct, and although some things (particularly the solo aspect of the mission) are very strange, it is well-pitched to seem plausible. Combined, all this creates a believable but unobtrusive setting that enhances but doesn't overpower the human story.
I enjoyed the way the pace of the scenes reflected Jenny's mental state. At the beginning she is constantly turned about and bombarded with information, then in more considered scenes we see her spend time in training, and at the end it’s just her and her reflection on the mission. Using a spaceman puppet to explore her dreams worked very well, as did the representation of weightlessness through cast members carrying each other – allowing the audience to share her excitement.
I worried at the beginning that there would not be much exploration of her relationship with boyfriend Tom. While the early scenes between them – before Jenny can tell anyone about her mission – are quite strange, later ones work well and feel more realistic. I do think the arc of their relationship would have benefited from more exploration of their life as a couple before she signs up to leave; she is so quick to do so that, rather than emphasise how strongly she felt about the mission, it just seemed she didn't care much for Tom.
Clever use of props shows us a believable near future and explores the challenges of off-world colonisation. But as with all good sci-fi, this doesn't only look to the future, but dives deep into ourselves. Jenny's journey from idealism to realism, set against the background of corporations, marketing and PR is interesting and thought-provoking.