Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
When the twin Suns come out on the floating ocean of planet Solaris in David Greig’s new adaptation of Polish writer Stanislaw Lem’s 1961 existential science-fiction novel, the swathes of red and blue light up psychologist Kris Kelvin’s entire world.
Kris has been dispatched to the ship keeping an eye on Solaris to find out why radio silence has been so prolonged. The answer from Drs Sartorius and Snow comes in the form of another set of visitors, seemingly flesh and blood reincarnations of significant others brought into being by the planet capitalising on the crew’s emotional baggage.
This is the prognosis of the now deceased Gibarian, seen played on film by Hugo Weaving in a series of left behind video diaries. These gradually shed light on the ghosts that linger, too often stymying us from taking a leap into the void of unknown tomorrows.
Matthew Lutton’s co-production between the Lyceum, the Malthouse Theatre Melbourne and the Lyric, Hammersmith wafts woozily through its series of short scenes on Hyemi Shin’s ingenious white box set. These are illuminated by lighting designer Paul Jackson’s washes of colour, and punctuated by the stage curtain being slowly lowered and raised as if moving ever deeper through assorted psychic hatches to get to the truth of being.
In this sense, Greig, Lutton and their team have taken Lem’s story - famously filmed by both Andrei Tarkovsky and Steven Soderbergh - and dramatised it as the sort of therapy session the cosmonauts of inner space behind me-generation sci-fi made their own.
The five actors onstage, including either Almila Kaplangi or Maya McKee as a visiting child, give their heart and soul to this, with a wonderfully ebullient Polly Frame as Kris and Keegan Joyce’s Ray the fools who rush in where Jade Ogugua’s Sartorius and Fife Simbo’s Snow fear to tread.
In the end, Greig and Lutton explore how past, present and future worlds collide as we orbit in our own space around each other, looking for somewhere safe to land among the hopefully brave new worlds that offer up infinite possibilities.
The Herald, September 16th 2019