Twelve billion miles away, zooming through space at 17 miles a second, is a record of us all: you, me and everything else. In 1974, scientists launched the Voyager spacecraft on a one-way mission into space. On it was a golden phonograph record intended for any passing extra-terrestrials – "a cosmic hello", its creators called it. The aim was a record that represented the entirety of planet earth and humanity: our languages and our maths, our bodies and our families, our landscapes and our music. It was a mix-tape of mankind.
You, Me and Everything Else recounts the story behind it. Pulling props out of archive boxes as if delving into the past, Newcastle's young Camisado Club bring the four American scientists responsible for representing us out of storage. Carl Sagan lead a team that included his wife Linda, and another couple Ann Druyan and Timothy Ferris. It's their job, not only to work out the science of a space-worthy vinyl, but to harvest the material that best sums up a species. They record hundreds of hellos in a range of languages, and translate brainwaves into sound. Mostly, though, they rifle through the world's record collection – everything from Chuck Berry to Beethoven.
This is a nimble account of a fascinating project, one that affords us a real sense of wonder as it zooms in and out. As a miniature white spacecraft floats across the stage, narrating its journey to the edge of the universe, four pairs of shoes find their feet. There's as much to marvel at in the pale blue dot – Voyager's final photo of earth before it broke contact – as in the tender glances between two colleagues, Carl and Ann, slowly falling in love.
It's a beautifully thought show that is, fittingly, full of connections. The need to make contact on a cosmic level is matched on a marital scale as Carl and Anna grow closer. But every coming together entails a separation as well. When the scientists send their hard work off into space, their success comes with a sadness. That act is a farewell of its own – and for what? The beauty of the Voyager Golden Record isn't what it might achieve. It's the thing itself: the act of squeezing us all onto one disc; of finding connections across cultures and genders, geography and race.
There's distance in that too and tucked inside is a quiet critique of cultural gatekeeping – the chasms between us as well as the commonalities. The scientists' British musical selection, for example, is a ye-olde May dance, and Ann struggles to find something from China. It's a neat way of illustrating not just the American arrogance at the heart of the space race, but that no act of representation can be truly universal.
In the end, Ann reverts to a 13th century Chinese folk song, "Flowing Stream"; the point being that distance and time are intrinsically linked. Voyager, remember, contains no trace of today's world; nothing of you, me and everything else. It's a record in more ways than one, and, just like our history books, it's inevitably incomplete. Both, incidentally, are missing the most important thing of all – love.
You, Me and Everything Else runs at Zoo Venues, until 14 August, 17.45.