Space travel and loneliness are already becoming front runners for favored themes for this year’s Pulse Fringe Festival. Hard on the heels of Captain KO and the Planet of Rice, comes another early work in progress, Escape Velocity (bye bye bye) by Barometric. The same dilemmas from the earlier show apply in reviewing a work in progress and again this should be borne in mind.
As it currently stands we are offered a series of what Thomas Martin, performer and co-writer with Nina Segal, describes during the performance as ‘bits’ of a show centred around astronauts having to cope with the pressures of confinement, loneliness and sheer distance from home.
Thomas himself runs through his suitability to venture into space, an unlikely proposition given by his own admission his bad eyesight, dodgy knees, and feet and a history of sinus trouble. Of course physical health is only one of the pressures facing space travellers. The mental challenges faced are arguably greater than the biological. Using a series of science fiction films as case studies Thomas examines some of these conundrums, how to cope with space madness or who should become martyr in the event of a disaster.
Further sections look at the impact of sheer distance from loved ones and the limitations of communications and finally the sheer vastness of space itself.
While Thomas appears to be confident in performing the material, in its current form it is hard to the plan to coalesce into a coherent structure. Like Captain KO the previous night, the mental impact of space travel does contain a strong story line, but given that currently that experience is limited to a handful of people it does make it difficult to connect that experience to a wider audience. Escape Velocity at the moment seems to be trying to fit to many diverse strands into a structure without a clear view what the ultimate message is. For example, a sub plot regarding N’Synch singer Lance Bass’ failed attempt to become a space tourist could form the basis for a show in its own right, but here is little more than a throwaway diversion.
Other moments seem to be trying to hard to be creative for effect, rather than for dramatic reason. The final scene see’s Thomas standing on a chair throwing handfuls of flour onto the studio floor to create a representation of the vastness of the universe. While it does create a representation of the cosmos, ultimately it seems effect for effects sake.
As stated at the start of this review, Escape Velocity is a work in the early stages of development and part of that creative process is experimentation and discovering what works and what doesn’t. What is currently missing is a clear idea of what the show is trying to say and a clear structure on how that journey looks.
Like space travel itself, without careful pre-planning and a clear mission plan, no number of fancy buttons and gimmicks will get you into orbit.