Monday, September 15, 2014

Niamh Shaw, 'To SPACE': Where There's a Will, There's a Whey

Scientist/performer Niamh Shaw wants to go to space. Becoming increasingly smaller in an expanding universe, what does it take to realise your dreams?

Dublin Science Gallery, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 9-14 

My review of To SPACE by Niamh Shaw coming up just as soon as I accidentally discover a constellation while feeding my dog ...

When the Hubble Space Telescope was pointed towards a dark patch of sky in 1995, it retrieved an image of 3,000 newly discovered galaxies. In a universe expanding at an accelerated rate, does looking up at the heavens make us feel significantly smaller?

Scientist and performer Niamh Shaw rises up against the odds (and gravity, if given the opportunity) in this account of her goal to go to space. She appears first as an impassioned professor, spelling out an astronomy lesson while tending to an experiment that transforms a simple whey solution into an edible film. The compound of these separate elements will soon become clear in director Ronan Phelan's methodical staging.  

Its theatricality is discreet at first with Shaw giving occasional fiery pronouncements while a lunar spotlight follows her across the darkened studio space. Gradually, the focus is to represent the personal: an eight year old discovers Star Wars; a grown woman regrets letting life distract from a lifetime achievement. Giving into dramatic invention, she departs from reality only to float to the International Space Station where, in conversation with a fictional astronaut, the performer tearfully allows her fear to surface - to never reach the cosmos.

Its greater gravitational pull is to have us consider the pursuit of our own dreams, which are often faced with a cosmic scale of improbabilities, and the brutal thought of their un-fulfilment. However, in the eye of Shaw's stargazer there's a twinkle suggesting that anything's possible. 

What did everybody else think?

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