Adapting Solaris for fringe theatre is possibly the bravest thing a director could do. The 1961 novel by Polish author Stanislaw Lem, adapted to epic proportions by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972 and not so epically by Steven Soderbergh in 2002, is an exceptionally philosophical work.
The story is centred on a group of scientists who are researching the planet Solaris from a space station. At first it appears that the sentient planetıs oceans are causing the scientists to hallucinate but it slowly becomes apparent that it is in fact causing each of them to manifest someone from their past. These figures from the past represent their deepest flaws and regrets, forcing the scientists to confront them.
Given that this is the stage premiere of the novel it's a testament to director Dimitry Devderiani's balls as it is to being a good indication that this one is extremely difficult to reproduce for theatre.
Nevertheless Devderiani and cast make a damn fine job of it, considering. The three main scientists Kris Kelvin (Charles Church), Dr Snow (John Exell) and Jacob Trenerry (Dr Sartorius) are astute observations of distinctly different characteristics.
Dr Snow is a jumpy, neurotic madman, Dr Sartorius a pedantic analyser while protagonist Kelvin is almost authoritarian. The three play off tremendously well together and the interactions between them are fascinating to watch. Despite the playıs simple format it also does well to achieve a good deal of suspense.
But the play is not without its problems. As predicted, the enormity of the subject matter in the internal psychological struggle of the scientists is utterly lost in a stage setting. Lam's words could describe it and Tarkovsky's trademark long, slow takes helped build on the mystery. On a stage, however, you have more freedom of where to look - in this case the flimsy set design - and only the script to guide you one that is a little too wordy at times. Introspective subject matter and too much yakking on donıt really go hand in hand.
- by Will Stone