Between the cast and creative team behind Summer Nights in Space, musical charm elevates the script and lyrics to entertain whilst raising questions about human existence, power and control. Running over an hour, Henry Carpenter’s script and music talent easily engage, whilst subtly guiding individuals to make sense of the world. His collective artistry charms – between the music and an astronaut’s search for companionship – whilst you root for the protagonist’s happiness.
John Spartan (Matthew Jacobs Morgan) opens the play: is this astronaut talking to his computer, himself or merely aloud? Switching between the three, his background and purpose is revealed.
Spartan is in space, he is not lost, he is out on a quest. Commissioned by his ‘friends’, he has been sent on a space programme to discover…what, he is not exactly sure himself. Seeking enlightenment, inner desires are expressed through dance movement (Caldonia Walton) and music numbers. Jacobs Morgan’s expressing Spartan’s loneliness switches between each scene, one moment he is camp, and the other deep in sorrow over losing his wife; leaving to the imagination the multiple personalities one would face in oneself during 1126 days in solitude.
Keeping Spartan company is his computer, played by Benjamin Victor. Victor is convincing as an emotionless drone in pursuit of one purpose, a counterpart to Spartan.
All is doom until Spartan receives a distress signal from a fellow Astro-nette. Spartan, at last, has a mission: to rescue the one, who will, in return, be his saviour. As he is about to embark on a newly discovered mission, an Alien (Candice Palladino) appears in his pod. How will he deal with this intruder, will an Alien threaten his mission or in return guide him towards enlightenment?
Palladino’s Alien is amusing; although a clueless killer, she interacts with Spartan without endearment yet manages to charm both him and the audience. Her homicidal nature however is contradicted with how tame she becomes when tied up. Is a mere rope capable of hindering a killer?
The production runs for over an hour, although Spartan consumes your imagination; lack of movement needed to run a space pod could benefit with full use of the space. Claustrophobia is barely projected and, upon the arrival of the Alien, there should be fear, instead, comedy replaces its effect. The digital screen with projection of space is not made use of – instead of being sucked into Spartan’s existence, never once do we leave the seats of the auditorium. It is however not certain whether the minimal use of the digital screen is due to a technical glitch.
Summer Nights in Space raises plenty of questions, whether it’s leaning towards depression, or political topics, it successfully stirs the mind to consider Carpenter’s own mindset. He is accompanied by Mickey Howard on Guitar and Archie Wolfman on Drums; collectively, the three have potential to receive a science fiction cult following.
As Spartan is reintroduced to Earth, the arrival of Lethal Space Bizzle takes the play into the genre of theatre of absurd. Mixing with science fiction, there is too much happening at this point to focus on the sole meaning.
Directorial choices could exalt Carpenter’s text to a different level. It is foreseeable that, with further runs, Sinead O’Callaghan will guide this play to its’ full potential.