Whilst the original Space Race between the US and former Soviet Union wrapped up in the late 1960s, there’s a new quest on the horizon – to colonise Mars.
Space agencies around the world and independent corporations have been setting their sights on the red planet for some time. In Event of Moone Disaster postulates that in 2055, we’ll be ready to send humans to Mars. That’s a mere 38 years from now, and a monumental endeavour to achieve in that time. But considering the technological advances of the last 38 years, the next 38 could herald an unrecognisable technological landscape.
Of course, when there are changes in tech, there are changes in theatre. So here are a few ideas as to what theatre might be like in 2055.
1. Everyone will have a microchip implant. Any recorded theatre production will be available to download into your head from the cloud. Wearing a purpose-built helmet, you will be able to experience the production as an immersive experience using VR technology in the comfort of your own home. But craving a communal experience with others, people will still go to the theatre.
2. Travel has become cheaper because of renewable energy technologies and it takes much less time to get around. Popping to New York for a show and back will be totally feasible, and medical advancements means a single tablet will prevent jetlag.
3. Theatres will be much more environmentally friendly than they are now. Rather than wood, sets will be built from recycled plastics reclaimed from the sea. Lights and projection will be powered from wind, solar and water. Water in the loos will be filtered and reused in a closed system.
4. The cost of living will have increased so much so that theatre staff wages will be partially paid in accommodation. Venues will have built communal housing for all of its workers, so live-work arrangements will be the norm. This will also happen in other industries as private accommodation, especially in large cities, will be almost solely owned by foreign investors and large corporations.
5. Theatre will be much more diverse than it is now. Casts will be genuinely race and gender blind, disabled actors can play whatever roles they like, and theatre administration will be similarly composed. Creches will be universally available for anyone with a child, and children will be welcome in the workplace without question.
6. Technology will have advanced to the point that projections look totally realistic. They will be able to surround the audience so that productions feel genuinely immersive. You will feel like the world of the play is real, and you are in it.
Whilst I’m wary of microchips and communal living, I’m all for properly immersive theatre and day trips to New York. And give it another 38 years and we might just be able to go to theatre on Mars.
One of the more common accusations against Millennials is that they are narcissistic. The people holding such a negative perspective see this entire generation as self-obsessed and with an inherent belief that they are special. As such, they think Millennials believe they deserve success. But look at these traits from a more positive angle, and you see them reinterpreted as ambitious, confident and driven.
Of course, it’s silly to tar an entire generation with a few generalisations, be they positive or negative. Some Millennials are incredibly narcissistic. Some do genuinely believe they should get what they want without having to work for it. But, we can also see these traits manifested in people from other generations. Some people are lazy, and some are aspirational, regardless of how old or young they are. This applies to both women and men, but it’s only recently that motivated women are able to actually have a genuine shot at achievement – and there’s still a long way to go.
In Event of Moone Disaster spans three generations and nearly 90 years. The three women at the centre of Andrew Thompson’s 2016 Theatre503 Playwriting Award-winning play all display remarkable tenacity, and each fits their generational stereotypes in some ways and defies them in others. What they do have in common is that all three characters are smart, forward thinking and desperate for more than their world can give them.
Baby Boomer Sylvia, who wants to be so much more than a manager’s wife in a 1969 small, English town, struggles against society’s expectations of a woman to stay home with the kids and keep house for her husband. Fastforwarding to her daughter-in-law Julie in 2017, we see a woman that wants it all – a career, a husband and a child. She’s a typical Millennial with a familiar arsenal of wants and desires. Jumping ahead to 2055, Sylvia’s Generation Z granddaughter is grown up and counting down the days until she becomes the first woman to set foot on Mars.
Just as relationships to technology play an increasingly important role in how different generations are defined, the women in the play have different relationships with this rapidly-changing force. Its connection with sex and fertility creates an unexpected thematic through-line that will particularly resonate with the I-want-it-all Millennial women. Looking more widely at the three women, it’s remarkable to contemplate how science and technology have informed our reproductive choices in a relatively short timeframe.
In Event of Moone Disaster has a clear feminist narrative within its framework of generational differences and the technology that helps to define them, but it doesn’t exclude men. All genders are at the mercy of the time and place they’re born, and categorised accordingly. It’s a story of dreams and outer space, family and friction, limits and hopes. Such sweeping themes cannot be confined to one generation or another, rather they are the domain of humankind for time immemorial.
In the corner of a Forest Hill rehearsal room, there’s a large silver trunk. It’s easily big enough to fit a person if they curl up a bit. It’s shut, but not locked. I wonder what could be in there. It’s definitely well used – there are dark scuffs on the front, the lid doesn’t close all the way, the latches looks broken, or well on their way there. Apart from the obviously functional storage capacity, I contemplate the journeys it’s taken and why it’s been kept
The kitchen/set and prop store have some hints as to the sort of things that are deemed valuable enough to hold onto – bits of backdrops, old furniture, fake flowers and bedding. Boxes simply labeled ‘props’ – anything could be in them. They, along with the trunk, are full of possibilities that come from only their most superficially observed features.
In front of the trunk, a pair of actors wrestle with a scene from In Event of Moone Disaster. Director Lisa Spirling – also theatre503’s artistic director – is guiding them through a multi-step process to find their characters. First, they read the scene sitting down. Whenever a line rings false, Lisa simply says ‘again’ until she’s happy with the delivery.
They discuss the characters’ backstories and mull over the unknowns that aren’t in the script. Why might he have said this? Why might she have done that? Little is set in stone at this point, but everyone here is looking for truth. They delve into all the possibilities of why the characters say and do the things they say and do.
But it’s more than piecing together a puzzle that will be a static, unchanging thing, predetermined by an abstract manufacturing process. Lisa and each of the actors are making a new, unique puzzle from a scant few pieces. Each of these puzzles will look like a human life, with all the complexities and memories and experiences of a real person and fit together to form a bigger one. Once the show is over, the puzzle vanishes.
The performers move onto the next exploratory step. In Push/Pull they run the scene again with Lisa and her assistant director Moses each standing behind an actor. Scripts in hand, they read the lines out in small bits. The actors repeat them, maintaining dynamic physical contact between them. Sometimes their movements are tender, sometimes aggressive, sometimes it conveys another intention entirely. It’s a riveting, emotional watch.
A mood board taped onto the wall gives additional clues as to what this bigger puzzle might look like by opening night. The phases of the moon, stark landscapes and a photo series of a diver all hint at a barren world unlike anything on this earth. There’s endless potential in the emptiness, though. It can be filled with anything, irrevocably changing its character.
Throughout the rehearsal, Lisa maintains an exquisite balance between control and freedom that’s just as compelling as the actors’ work, the mood board, and the room itself. This is the early stages of the process and the air is tense and sparky, but in a good way.
Like the trunk that sits in the corner of the room and the boxes in the storage area, anything could be revealed.