There are shades of Beckett but without the plodding pretentiousness in Signals, Footprint Theatre’s new show all about human connection and the search for life beyond Earth. Two unnamed scientists (refreshingly played by two women, Eve Cowley and Immie Davies) are on the night shift, poring over piles of data and endlessly waiting for a reply to all the messages humanity has thrown out into the cosmos.
Signals may technically be ‘sci-fi’ but it’s remarkably human and down to Earth.
Fuelled by bottomless mugs of tea and biscuits, the women fill their time with trivia games, petty arguments, and philosophical ruminations. What would you ask the aliens? How would we understand each other? What defines us as human beings? Signals may technically be ‘sci-fi’ but it’s remarkably human and down to Earth in its focus on the women’s friendship in the face of infuriating bureaucracy and existential angst.
Despite the limited space and spartan set, the world evoked by the script and actors is highly believable, rich with details (complaints about their boss are excellently observed) and a consistent internal logic. The short run-time means the show feels almost in a rush to get everything said and done, which somewhat sacrifices the atmosphere of eternal waiting. We get close but not quite close enough to really feeling the dead-end drudgery of their work and so their attempts to fill the time and silence, though enjoyable to watch, don’t have as much impact.
Nevertheless, Signals is an accomplished piece of work from Footprint Theatre that shines a light back on ourselves in our search throughout the galaxy. “The search defines us” believes one of the scientists, but what will we discover?