Photon StarBlaster and the Suicidal Spaceship

This show is light-speed FAST. Bums are barely on seats when Junior Galactic Agent Photon Starblaster bounds on stage, announcing interplanetary peril. We chart his bumpy course through the stars in search of Senior Agent Brundle, former chief playmate and centre of the solar system who has disappeared over the event horizon – as well as the more terrestrial life of its imaginer: John, a boy coming to terms with his father’s suicide. Outer space becomes both a refuge and exploration of a new and terrifying experience that distorts once-familiar constants. At the same time, it’s a fantastically enjoyable and creative hour of theatre, resplendent with jet-packs, gravity waves, alien battles and fantastic dialogue.

A fantastically enjoyable and creative hour of theatre

As the show thunders past us a few words lost here and there. This frenetic pace definitely feels intentional, though – part of the frightening, out of control feeling of a spaceship that might crash at any moment. Instantaneous cuts between reality and imagination add to a disorientating and immersive experience. Under Pirie’s skilful direction, the cast and crew are so in sync they’re practically telepathic. Together, they transform a space-obsessed bedroom (think nerf guns, galaxy lamps, even bin bag capes) into an electric show, elevated by slick tech and stellar performances. McEwan-Whyte’s physicality is highly impressive, really inhabiting his young protagonist. Pirie’s self-destructive Hitchhiker’s Guide-esque spaceship interface is worlds apart from her sensitive portrayal of John’s mother. She is much more than a foil to John’s fantasies: their changing relationship is written and acted with exceptional insight and skill.

McEwan-Whyte’s premise, based on his own love of sci-fi and experience of losing a parent to suicide, is meticulously structured throughout. He creates a striking visual and metaphorical language with which to explore a strange and frightening landscape of loss, sensitively navigating the complicated mix of emotions experienced by the characters, and the logical acrobatics involved. Sci-fi fantasies offer an escape from reality: but, in their cosmic metaphors, vast, complex, overwhelming feelings and experiences are explored, plotted and shared.

Part of my curiosity in wanting to see this play was its family friendly marketing. The audience I was part of was decidedly lacking in families - a good sign, as we’re midway through the first full week back to school (and something I should have given more thought to before booking my ticket). I could really see this working for a younger audience. Not only is it highly imaginative and fun, but it also has the potential to spark many conversations, and make many people feel less alone. In a social context where adults and children alike often lack the language and spaces to explore loss or suicide, this play is really needed. It is not a didactic piece of theatre, nor does it euphemise suicide or loss. I applaud its creators for fusing their considerable talents to stare right into the complicated and dark, and for the warmth, humour and vulnerability they have brought to this show.

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Reviews by Hazel Burt

Assembly George Square Studios

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Photon StarBlaster and the Suicidal Spaceship

★★★★
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The Blurb

Photon StarBlaster is a renegade galactic agent on a mission. But when his spaceship malfunctions and sets course to self-destruct, he is thrown into his most dangerous journey yet. Will he be able to make it home? Based on the playwright's own childhood experiences, this fast-paced new play explores the generational fallout of suicide, and how we reach for the stars when the ground beneath us gets too much. A C ARTS Spark Fund winner.

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