Writer and Performer: AlexanderKelly
Director: Rachael Walton
BSL Interpreter: Caroline Jane Smith
Reviewer: Paul Couch
Third Angel’s 600 People has something of an air of the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures about it. It’s accessible, not at all stuffy, and genuinely entertaining. Is it “theatre”? Probably not in the conventional sense but Third Angel does have a reputation for pushing boundaries in their work.
Writer and performer Alexander Kelly starts off by welcoming the audience with a simple “Hello”. Typically British, we don’t respond (the irony of that will become clear later), so Kelly says it again, with a little more force. Then the greeting expands: “Hello from the children of planet Earth.” More greetings follow, each translated from one of 55 languages used on the famous ‘Golden Record’ that was placed upon the Voyagers 1 and 2 spacecraft before their launch to the far reaches of our solar system, and beyond, in September and August (respectively) 1977.
600 People is based on a series of conversations that Kelly had with astrophysicist Dr Simon Goodwin back in 2006. Kelly posed the question “are we alone in the universe?” and was clearly taken aback with the scientist’s pessimistic reply. Beware Belgians, though; apparently, the jury’s still out on the Belgians.
600 People does meander a bit – the 600 people of the title refers to the original tribe of Homo Sapiens who it is believed came out of Africa some 20,000 years ago and from whom today’s 7.4 billion inhabitants of Earth are descended. However, Kelly’s jokey and self-deprecating delivery engages and makes quite a complicated topic gripping to listen to.
Of course, there’s no plot as such – this is spoken word – but the presentation is supported by a series of very basic line drawings by Daniel Fletcher and a circular brass-coloured stele, containing an intricate array of glyphs, (created by Nathaniel Warnes). The more observant among the audience would notice that some of these glyphs comprise the outline of Darth Vader’s iconic helmet from Star Wars and a computer monitor. The line-drawing illustrations, it has to be said, are not of the highest quality and become really distracting after a while. A shame, as the dialogue accompanying them is valid and genuinely interesting.
Voyagers 1 and 2 are now in interstellar space. It is NASA’s hope they will eventually encounter extraterrestrial life. After almost 40 years, their plaintive “Hello” into the void has gone unanswered, much like Alexander Kelly’s opening greeting to his audience. In cosmic terms, Kelly explains, 40 years is a fraction of nano-second. We need to be patient.
Reviewed on 4 June 2016 | Image: Contributed