From the outset Captain Ko and the Planet of Rice sets itself firmly at the surreal edge of fringe theatre. The production is effectively split into 3 parts each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The first part tells the story of two spacemen on a mission to the last uninhabited planet in the universe, the Planet of Rice. The audience learns this through a faux 1950’s sci-fi introduction that is projected onto the white backdrop. This use of the projector was excellent as it allowed the performance to move from place to place without moving props around the stage. However this was never fully utilised as just as they were starting to make some interesting points about isolation and losing one’s mind in space the scene effectively ended and a mime broke out.Now I like mime but I do have an issue with a mime that lasts twenty minutes and seems to have no context. The main problem with this is that the longer a mime goes on the more likely syncing issues between the sound and actor are to occur and occur they did: whilst leaving the audience in the dark can keep them guessing and interested the opposite can also be true without sufficient background. Unfortunately for Captain Ko it was the latter.
The final part was by far the most engaging and poignant as it told the story of Sergei Krikalev who spent 10 months aboard the space station Mir during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Once again there was clever use of the projector to create an impression of zero gravity footage. It reiterated some of the feelings of the disconnect of space that were touched upon the first piece but I can’t help but feeling that if they were viewed separately it would be difficult to make that link.
There are many things about Captain Ko and the Planet of Rice that worked well such as the visuals on the backdrop and the sound. However it was the audience who felt disconnected as the production as a whole didn’t hang together and too often felt like it was surreal for surreal’s sake.