Friday, 22 November 2013

Stella

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars
It's the men's voices you hear first in Siobhan Nicholas' new play that charts the parallel universes of eighteenth century singer turned astronomer Caroline Herschel and a twenty-first century counterpart investigating her life. They're the voices of men who've seen stars, been to the moon and lived to tell the tale. It's women like Herschel, however, who broke the glass ceiling that allowed those men to conquer worlds beyond.

The production by Brighton-based company, Take the Space, in association with Hove's The Old Market (TOM) venue and Greenwich Theatre sets its sights from the start, as Jessica and her classical musician husband Bill look to the skies for guidance. He's been offered a two year gig in Germany, and expects Jess to go with him. She has plans of her own, however, most of which involve a fascination with Herschel that sees her take up residence in the museum that was once the house her inspiration shared with her composer brother William. He may have got all the credit for discovering comets as he crafted ever bigger telescopes, but it was Caroline who had the real vision.

Directed by the company with Polly Irvin, Nicholas' play is part detective story, part polemic and part reclaiming of hidden history. As it flits between time-zones, it reveals a slew of classical allusions among the cosmic fall-out navigated by three actors, including Nicholas herself as Caroline. The late lurch into global politics via Jess and Bill's daughter Eve may be sudden, but it's here that the legacy of Caroline's fearlessness pays off in an at times awkward if heartfelt glimpse into lives lived beyond the twilight zone.

The Herald, November 21st 2013


ends

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