As we pass by Edinburgh Airport, a plane takes off, beginning its ascent to some distant destination.
But we are going much further than that.
For we, onboard a galactic jump ship merely disguised as an air-conditioned coach, are New Earth bound.
An instructional video has helped ease us, with promise of a new beginning; a chance to leave the terminally-ill Old Earth behind and start anew. Our on-ship guide Emilia (Molly Taylor) calms us further, by recalling and sharing the memory of her own ‘first time’.
And, despite its gigantic scale, Grid Iron‘s remarkable new production is all about such memories: our hopes, dreams and regrets; and the choices we make which create the future we then have to live with.
The Edinburgh International Climbing Arena is an inspired and inspiring choice of location. With its epic proportions and post-industrial architecture, it requires only a small suspension of belief to convince as the New Earth induction centre. What impresses even more however, is Grid Iron’s expert handling of the space.
As new arrivals, we are split into three groups and led through a series of areas as part of our ‘acclimatisation’. In each, the cast perform a short vignette, gradually exposing the truth behind this slightly sinister future utopia. Performances throughout are excellent, with Lucianne McEvoy as tortured leader Vela and Taylor’s velvet glove cheeriness particularly impressing.
Given the amount of coordination and direction required to pull this off, there is amazingly little dead time during the performance, and writers Catrin Evans & Lewis Hetherington succeed in creating a narrative which, although experienced in a different order by each group, remains powerfully cohesive.
Not quite everything is perfect in this new Eden — some of the pseudo-science creaks a little, and our guides’ costumes are a bit Space 1999. But these small criticisms are quickly blasted into orbit by the piece’s grand, immersive vision.
So much so that, by the time ‘final closure’ arrives in the climbing arena’s cavernous central space, Leaving Planet Earth has succeeded in pulling off a technically brilliant and poignantly thought-provoking marvel.
Leaving Planet Earth runs until Aug 24. Sold out.