A naive spaceship stowaway becomes a hero when the systems fail and the crew of the ship are incapacitated. Her only choice is to put them in cryogenic capsules to preserve them for the long journey home. Sounds like a regular sci-fi film right? Well the difference is, it’s theatre.
Creating an outer space environment is extremely difficult, even if you were given the best sci-fi CGI effects Hollywood can buy – let alone attempting it in a small dark theatre – so this is a brave production from the start. The set itself is not much past homemade, yet this isn’t important. Encompass Productions create the great beyond with an excellent script and talented actors. The play kicks in after the event of the crew being put into cryogenic stasis, and to survive the long and lonely journey back to earth Ren (played by Naomi Stafford) has to call upon the Emergency System Hologram, played by Ceridwen Smith. The Hologram tries to help Ren to fix the craft by downloading the cognitive memories of the crew in cryogenic stasis. This means that in a two-hander play, you actually have a much bigger cast of credible characters. Smith has to download four other entirely different personalities, and using accents and body language Smith moves realistically in and out of these various crew members. This gives the play more depth and dynamic. The intimate scenes between Smith and Stafford are the true highlight of the play. Stafford’s isolation and frustration are heartbreaking, her detailed choices creating a varied narrative that carries the whole play. Stafford’s honest performance matches well with writer Emily Holyoake’s dialogue. The text is naturalistic despite its setting, so without the boundary of too much technical jargon it becomes about the human mind surviving alone. The sound and lighting design are literally atmospheric. In this dark room they create a spaceship: the simple lighting effect of starlight coming in from the shutters combines with convincing sound details that take this play into the next level. The success of this piece comes down to the detail of the show, from the actors especially, but also lovely elements like the light of a small torch making us believe we are under the ship’s cargo bay. For a sci-fi play, Stasis is all about human connection. By the end I was totally invested in the characters, cared for them and cared if they made it home. For a play to be set in such an unbelievable environment and yet achieve believability is marvellous. Stasis is playing at the White Bear Theatre until 25 April. For more information and tickets see the White Bear Theatre website. Photo by Sofi Berenger.