The Arches @ St Steven’s
9-31 August, 17.30
The premise of ‘Spaceman, ‘a lone survivor undergoes evolutionary mutations to find out why he is alive’, is at once exciting, but also an awkward and paradoxical concept for one man to physicalise on stage.
Disappointingly, these inherent difficulties are not mastered, or even solved, in their execution. The setting of St Stephen’s Church is atmospheric, the oversized stage contributing to the setting of a depopulated, primeval scene. The actor, mute except for some breathy articulations, is surrounded by a multimedia projection and intricate lighting patterns, whilst Paul Rous, director and performer, reveals an impressive flare in imitating robotic and animalistic movements.
However, the choreography as a whole does not appear to follow a chronology comprehendible as an ‘evolutionary’ one. It doesn’t take an expert to notice quickly that the delineation of his movements, so seemingly loaded with meaning, lack clarity and progression. His attempts to create a language in physical theatre is an admirable idea, yet the intended transmission is lost. His accompaniment is similarly confusing; textures of eclectic music, sound effects, and voice-overs jar insensitively. In many secionts a minimalistic glockenspiel score muffles a voiceover of dense sci-fi jargon (‘post-op evac, consolidating efforts of penetrating restriction zones, gauging activity cognition etc etc…’), and the audience is left in limbo as to how literally such gestures should be understood.
It is ironic that Rouse’s performance, an attempt to convey curiosity over limitations both natural and bodily, is uncommunicated to the audience because of technical ones. ‘Spaceman’ would appeal to those looking for a one man, philosophical, sci-fi, physical theatre; or for those wanting a challenge. But for rest of us seeking a display of professional, theatrical skill and wit in these remaining few days, I’d look elsewhere.