Beg, steal or borrow a ticket to see the latest David Greig play at the Lyceum. Even if, like me, you are no sci-fi aficionado this is a fabulous two hours or so of modern theatre which gives the cinema a run for its money.
The set is minimalistic as befits a space station. But it is incredibly nimble and adaptable, leaving you quite breathless at the speed with which it changes from one area in the station to the other.
The whole pace of the play is at times almost giddy, but in the main the story unfolds gradually, allowing you enough time to absorb the detail as it does so.
The video footage featuring Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith from The Matrix) is a magnificent addition to the small cast on stage who absolutely transported us to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris with all the funny business that is going on there. It would be entirely unfair to single out any one member of the cast as the interplay between all of them is well crafted, with each having a moment in the spotlight too.
Stanislaw Lem’s novel was published in 1961, and while the principle of the story is the same, this play refreshes it. Recorded sound, the lighting and other theatrical effects are used wisely and realistically.
But perhaps the pièce de resistance is the simple ‘curtain’ which rises and falls perhaps 30 times during the production, taking us from one scene to the next. The director Matthew Lutton said he is attracted to stories which seem ‘impossible to stage’ and at first sight this would be one of those stories. But it is a triumph of illusion, and you could be watching a film on the big screen.
The story is that within hours of arriving on a space station in orbit around the mercurial planet Solaris, psychologist Kris is troubled by the evasive habits of her fellow scientists who each seem haunted by ghosts. It’s not long before she herself is confronted by the spectre of an old love, who she then embraces and envelopes into her life on board the station.
At first these interactions are scary but soon they become addictive. Are these apparitions real or is the planet conjuring them to communicate with the spaceship’s crew? Soon the team’s research mission becomes just a little derailed.
Are the loose ends and mystery of Solaris solved by the end of the play? Well that would be a real spoiler for this outstanding work wouldn’t it?
Following Tarkovsky and Soderbergh’s cult films, Lyceum Artistic Director David Greig, brings Lem’s classic sci-fi novel to the stage for the first time, joining with Director Matthew Lutton, of Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre, to create a stylish space-scape for a story which explores the nature of love, loss and consciousness. This play premiered in Melbourne earlier in the year when Greig said : “I just sat in my seat in absolute awe of what Matthew and his team had created.”
Solaris follows David Greig’s recent run of smash-hit adaptations including Touching the Void and Local Hero.
SOLARIS A new play by David Greig
Adapted from Stanisław Lem’s novel
Directed by Matthew Lutton
Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh
12 Sept – 5 October 2019
Polly Frame Kris Kelvin
Keegan Joyce Ray
Jade Ogugua Dr Sartorius
Fode Simbo Dr Snow
Hugo Weaving (on video) Dr Gibarian
Writer David Greig adapted from Stanisław Lem’s novel
Director Matthew Lutton
Designer Hyemi Shin
Lighting Designer Paul Jackson
Sound Designer and Composer Jethro Woodward
Casting Director Laura Donnelly CDG
Solaris is a co-production between the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne and the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre.