‘All UNSA personnel to launch stations’, chimes the voice of the intercom in the theatre lobby. We are going on a Mission to Mars with the Unlimited Space Agency (aka Unlimited Theatre Company).
The year is 2035 and we are following the progress of six astronauts bound for interplanetary adventure. These six are split into two teams. The first team, who we see on stage, are Dr. Gail Iles and Dr. Stephan Losch. They are the crew of Firefly One, which will land on the red planet ahead of the rest of the team in Firefly Two, to set up base camp. The crew of Firefly Two are seen via a number of video screens speaking both directly to the audience and the crew of the other Firefly spaceship.
This journey to Mars is certainly a visual treat. The set, designed by Rhys Jarman, is a brilliantly kitsch homage to films like Silent Running or 2001, A Space Odyssey. Unlimited Theatre successfully make us believe that what we are seeing is actually in space, with a brilliant take-off scene and weightlessness portrayed by actors hanging on straps.
This is a show aimed primarily at a younger audience and the children in the audience will certainly love it. For adults the first section of the show is reminiscent of watching Blue Peter or going to a science museum but patience during these scenes is rewarded with a satisfying pay-off at the end.
To call Mission to Mars 'edutainment' is perhaps to undersell it a little as, at its best, this show is more about inspiring people than about actually teaching. All in all this is an enjoyable way to excite young children about science. Lucy Ellinson who plays Dr. Joni Spencer, is memorable for her rousing speech about bravery and determination towards the end of the show. I suggest that she would make a very good Doctor Who .