Set in 2057, a time not too far away from our own,
For a piece so grounded in what it is to be human, the real human aspects of the characters feel distant
With such themes of endeavour, aspiration and breaking beyond limitations, and with the very universe as inspiration, the potential of The Mission is vast. Moreover, a fleeting reference, in the original soundtrack, to the UK’s first European Space Agency astronaut, Tim Peake, should capitalise upon the current renewed interest in interstellar travel. At times, however, this scope is not fully realised.
The opening episodes of the piece work well, with nifty movement sequences, an audio montage of news headlines and some well-choreographed lighting arrangements which create a simultaneous sense of order and chaos. Images of constellations formed by the cast in ensemble are particularly evocative and are among the most memorable moments of the piece. Much of its success lies in the combined efforts of all cast members in unison; their physical portrayals of zero-gravity in particular showed careful rehearsal.
From here, however, and coinciding with the introduction of scripted dialogue, the trajectory of the performance somewhat tapers off. Seemingly taking a naturalistic approach, particularly with regards to the interwoven love story behind the grand journey itself, it is difficult to engage with the characters beyond the surface, owing to some awkward and, at times, clunky writing, which comes to dominate the telling of the story. As the emotional heart of the piece, it would appear crucial to be absorbed by the relationship of Jenny and Tom, but on this occasion the anticipated chemistry lacks the spark which would lead to a genuine emotional involvement.
The piece never convincingly decides on its style, with the characters somewhat incongruously ranging from caricature to attempted naturalism, and featuring extremes of emotion difficult to reconcile. For a piece so grounded in what it is to be human, the real human aspects of the characters feel distant.
The Outbound Project describes itself as a ‘visually driven theatre company’ with the company’s greatest success being its creation of image and synchronicity of movement. With further development of the show’s verbal components and the function of its characters, The Mission could yet take off.