Those of a certain age will remember the heart bruising joy of creating a mix tape for a loved one. They may have agonised over getting the sounds just right, keen to represent the very best of themselves. Such romantics will have wanted to display themselves with all their complications and nuance in the right place, whilst also showing that they were ready and open to listen to the soul they were attempting to communicate with. In 1977, Dr Carl Sagan had a similar challenge, except that his recording was to be delivered out into the furthest reaches of outer space. As you read this, it’s still out there.
You, Me And Everything Else is a tight, focused and sweetly delicate ensemble piece.
Tasked with calling occupants of interplanetary craft, and not wanting to repeat the single image that had been sent on Apollo 12 in 1969, Sagan’s team struggle for a while to agree on what to send on board Voyager, convinced that a depiction of humanity needs a little more… well, humanity. They decide at last to enlist the services of Ann Druyan, a passionate author who spends too much time staring into space. When she meets the man for whom ‘staring into space’ is literally a job description, chemistry is inevitably mixed with astronomy. They begin to fall in love with one another, both betraying existing partners. You, Me And Everything Else lives up to its title, however: this isn’t a love story – or at the very least, it’s not a love story at expense of everything else. There’s a lot packed into this hour without it ever feeling over-stuffed: as well as Ann and Carl’s burgeoning romance and invocations of Voyager’s long journey, there are neat barbs at the contents of the Golden Record itself: the US gets to claim pop music with Johnny B Goode, while the British are stuck with Elizabethan chamber music. In addition, the depiction of sexuality is somewhat limited: as far as NASA in the seventies were concerned, humans could touch the outer reaches of space, as long as they also remained inside the closet.
Appropriately enough, this production is excellent at evoking time and space – and not just in the conceptual sense: a 70’s coffee bar just before Christmas, a raucous party, the cluttered studies of the scientists, and indeed Voyager itself as it spins into the beyond are all beautifully portrayed. Interestingly, there’s no attempt to replicate the American accents, which is likely the correct choice: we can get on with the delicacies and intimate moments hidden inside the large moments. A stand out moment is Ann’s brainwaves, flickering as she calls up an image of Carl, are recorded for eternity, sounding indistinguishable from the static of the Big Bang.
There are many strands running through the hour, but the company still finds room for much nuance and delicacy: a conversation about the best way to die, and Linda’s response when she discovers she has been betrayed is seasoned with dignity and defiance equally. On the other side of the triangle, despite Ann’s undeniably bad decisions, we see in her a sweetness and genuine passion that makes it difficult to judge her as ‘the other woman’. You, Me And Everything Else is a tight, focused and sweetly delicate ensemble piece.
To intimacy, and beyond!