DramaReviewSouth West

Intronauts – Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Dramaturg: Adam Fuller

Director: Emma Williams

Reviewer: Joan Phillips

Inspired by 1960’s sci-fi movies such as Fantastic Voyage, Intronauts takes a look into the not too distant future, where tiny microscopic workers are injected into the human body in order to perform maintenance or health checks.

The show opens with a graphic designer, occupied as much by his design project as he is by some unexplained digestive problem (the toilet paper stuck to his shoe might give a clue). Host to an intronaut, our graphic designer calls upon his tiny worker to investigate and resolve the problem.

These tiny microscopic workers live and work inside what looks like the front end of a rusty VW Camper Van. Two extendable arms for investigating and cleaning are tucked into the side of the vessel which is run by a propeller beneath as they bobble around the body. From inside, the intronaut directs the sweeping, sucking, grabbing and other treatments. 

Chris Pirie’s set makes use of a barely visible screen across the full length and height of the front of the stage. On this is projected the track of the vessel, the internal body systems and the text conversations with the host.

It all gets off to a delightful start and then looks like it is going to get better, as international theatre company Green Ginger draws on their full range of performing skills to show off mysteries of the body. Multi-media projections, puppets, models, mime and even inflatable costumes are all used to great imaginative effect. The tiny vessel and its operator become entangled by squid-like bright red corpuscles; a leotarded man dressed, possibly as a red blood cell, bobbles around aimlessly; more sinister leotarded performers float and then die sticking themselves to our intronaut. Performers Chris Pirie and Adam Fuller expertly operate the models and become the clown-like body cells.

All this time the front screen carries beautiful colour projections as the vessel propels its way through the body. Lighting designer, Marianne Thallaug Wedset, and composer, Simon Preston, are key to achieving the feeling of wonder and threat of the intronaut’s tiny world. Ganglions, proteins and blood all appear as wondrous as some of the best technicolour pictures from the Hubble Telescope.

It is a very short show, only 55 minutes, and despite the fun and early intrigue, even this is far too long with so little story. Hints of the consequences and dangers of this futuristic world are touched on but not followed through. You already had the feeling halfway that the content was sadly thin, when a dance scene was unnecessarily drawn out and repeated for apparently no reason. Director Emma Williams needs to make a hard cut here. Otherwise, the director and performers manage the transition from tiny microscopic works to full scale with imagination and fluidity.

The concluding scenes are again repetitive and sadly drawn out. By then the disappointment was exacerbated by an oddly jarring and thumping music score. It’s a shame. Green Ginger’s creativity, ingenuity and performing skills are clearly on display here and they have proved they can match these with making valid social commentary, as they did in Outpost, but sadly here they miss the opportunity.

Runs until 2nd February 2019 | Image: Contributed

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

Missed opportunity

The Reviews Hub - South West

The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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