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It's probably written down somewhere in an old dusty book of Edinburgh Fringe Rules that staging a big-scale sci-fi thriller with a complex set is Not Advisable.
Science-focussed theatre company Curious Directive have clearly ignored all the rules, though for this breathtakingly ambitious new piece. It's set some time after 2025, features an AI robot that moves about, a spaceship, a mission to Mars and deep sea exploration.
Rather astonishingly, 'Pioneer' works. It tells a complex tale of several different strands which come together in an extraordinary climax. We follow an attempt to land the first human mission on Mars, a young Dutch couple on a ship headed to the red planet, and two brothers on a road trip paying pay homage to the beginnings of space travel.
The play gets a little lost in its many strands. It is undeniably a thriller, but with so much going on and not a huge amount of time to tell it, certain elements aren't developed enough. It's a very filmic narrative and as a result needs more unpacking on stage.
Still, Cecilia Carey's design is superb. The set is a series of big white squares, each with one large hole in them. They form the basis of an imaginative, versatile set and become space ship bunk beds, offices, the inside of beaten up cars and more. Video and sound are also used as evocative, suggestive layers that help show life on earth and life in space very well.
'Pioneer' is not a perfect show, but it is an engaging, exciting story and will leave you open mouthed at its audacity.
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