As the show begins, a large, white, doughnut-shaped inflatable slowly expands to take up the stage. It is the centrepiece of the performance, and director Thaddeus Phillips ensures that audiences get a lasting ‘wow factor’. Inflatable Space offers a look at how humans perceive their culture, and theorises about the future of the satellite Voyager.
The story of this probe is true – and despite having been sent on its interstellar journey as long ago as 1977, Voyager is still carrying out its mission in space. On stage, two NASA technicians explain this to us, and describe the Golden Record which the probe carries: a disc with a representation of Earth’s culture embedded into it, just in case Voyager meets intelligent life.
The inflatable is featured in a particularly innovative way, and the performers continue to use its size to their advantage to create some wonderful imagery. Most importantly, it feels useful to the plot, and offers a visual way of learning about the universe. The pace feels slow at times, and there are periods when nothing really happens, but this is an educational production – it is factual, and doesn’t rely on theatrical drama to drive the story.
The characters are thoughtful and meaningful as they appreciate the infinite cosmos. From black holes to aliens and simply taking out the trash, the actors manage to create a conversation worth listening to.
The Golden Record is still relevant today in questioning how we value life on Earth, and if scientists believe that’s a picture of a man eating a burger then we so be it! But are there any regrets to our representation – or is human existence too difficult to fit onto a vinyl? And will it ever be intercepted by life that is intelligent enough to decipher our codes?
We can only be hopeful that this probe travels far enough to find out. Inflatable Space is a reminder of what’s out there, and offers a theatrical insight to Voyager as it continues its indefinite journey across the universe.