Curious Directive have hit the Fringe this year with epic sci-fi drama Pioneer, a space-exploration thriller of stunning proportions. With a set which morphs and moulds around the action, an ingenious mix of video, projection and subtle underscoring throughout, the show is an aesthetic wonder.

The scale of the narrative, production and performances make this an incredibly impressive show, in its expansive theme, breadth of feeling and ingenuity.

Set in 2025, the play follows the seemingly unconnected stories of the second ever mission to Mars, two Russian brothers on a road trip of familial discovery and a voyage to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The themes of discovery and innovation ebb throughout the production, being reflected perfectly by the expansive set. The use of live camera projection onstage adds another dimension to the production, the video feeds showing the not-too-distant future setting.

The performances given by the strong cast are perfectly understated, never being exaggerated or overacted: a real risk of tackling such an ambitious theme. James Hardy and Stephen Bisland create an incredibly real relationship as brothers Alyosha and Ivan who are travelling across Siberia and Kazakhstan in search of the true origins of space travel and their ancestral connections to the same. The constant patter of brotherly banter, fractious tensions of family arguments and high-running emotions shine through the pair and the inspired narrative climax is a euphoric moment of liberation and freedom.

The fact that the play is set only ten years in future, along with the clever subtlety of the sleekly futuristic set design, means that the events of the play are not all too hard to imagine as being a reality in this timeframe. This gives the show a air of credibility which a story about space exploration could easily lack. The scale of the narrative, production and performances make this an incredibly impressive show, in its expansive theme, breadth of feeling and ingenuity. 

Reviews by Andy Smith

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Traverse Theatre


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Pleasance Dome

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The Blurb

Fringe First winners return with the heart-breaking tale of the first human mission to another planet. Set in the near future, a maverick Dutch space flight director, far from home, contemplates an error which will cost her everything. An international team is assembled to venture the 52 million miles across our vast solar system. Using a breath-taking combination of video design and movement Pioneer takes audiences on a whirlwind journey through a deep sea simulation chamber, nightclubs, mission control and back to a quiet beach looking up at the night sky. ‘Rigorous, inventive and intelligent…bright young company’ (Guardian).