REVIEW – Pioneer


By Mark Bolsover

With genuinely awe-inspiring production values, incorporating large-scale, brilliantly crafted, mobile sets and multimedia projection inclusive of library images, video, and live video streaming, Curios Directive deliver a devised sci-fi thriller with ambition on a cinematic scale.

Two Russian brothers, Alyosha and Ivan Korolyov (played by James Hardy and Stephen Bisland, respectively), attempt, retrospectively, to tell the story of mankind’s attempt to colonise Mars.—In the wake of the apparent disappearance of the first mission, in the year 2025, a brilliant Indian billionaire architect funds a second attempt. In mission control, Shari Dasgupta (Emily Lloyd-Sani) attempts to keep the new mission on track, whilst desperately attempting to cover up the fate of the first mission from the world-at-large. Meanwhile, the brother’s set out on a journey across Siberia to connect to the history of space-flight and the Russian intellectual pioneer’s who made it possible. Fifty six million kilometers from home, a young Dutch couple Imke (Flora Denman) and Oskar are separated by Oskars’s sudden and mysterious disappearance. Exploring the depths of the Pacific Ocean, Maartje (Caitlin Ince), holds a critical secret about her sisters fate.

‘Pioneer’ attempts, across its ambitious design and scope, to unfold the narrative binding these disparate situations and locations together. The show draws on both narrative and visual allusions to pop-culture and the sci-fi thriller genre. Among others, Cecilia Carey’s design and Hannah Wales’s props brilliantly and subtly reference 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running, Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, and Moon.

Drawing its philosophical and artistic inspiration from these (and many other) sources, the show is, ultimately, a meditation on humanity’s place in the universe. Is humanity held, ineluctably by its (apparent) ‘natural’ bounds, or does its intense pioneering will and desire grant it the capacity (and the right) to exceed these bounds?
—The show (again, sweepingly) moves across reflections on architecture, technology, psychology and an interesting relationship to theology—particularly its interesting reading of (the figure of) Eve—to examine the ethics of the pioneer. More particularly, the show reflects on the nature and necessity of sacrifice: of the necessity of a labour for which we may, in the end, never receive recognition, to the continued cultural evolution of humanity.

The show is international in both its casting and outlook. As the brothers Korolyov, Hardy and Bisland are particularly touching, maintaining an excellent energy and chemistry, and the young cast does well to develop characters and relationships in the minimal space allowed by the shows broad sweep. They maintain the energy of the show well across a large number of complex but very well executed scene transitions.

The lighting design by Joshua Pharro manages to be both slick and unobtrusive, guiding the audience from situation to situation and fitting in well around Jasmine Robinson’s impressively executed image and video projection and Jo Walker’s (again, slick and unobtrusive) sound design.

An intelligent and compelling devised piece, ‘Pioneer’ manages the impressive feat of bringing the pathos and style of the cinematic sci-fi thriller into the domain of the fringe theatre space.

Pioneer is on at Zoo Southside until 25 August 13.00 (1hr 20mins)

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