Writers: The Cast
Director: Rebecca Frecknall
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
What defines us as a species? Is it our application of language, our understanding of mathematics as the basis of all things or our violent position at the top of the food chain? But humanity is surely more than a scientific and biological entity, what about our creative pursuits – art, music, literature, theatre and storytelling – as well as the entirely irrational elements of personality and behaviour that make us sentient beings? What would we say of ourselves to other planets, just who are we?
In 1977, NASA sent Voyager into space carrying a gold record onto which a committee had collected what they believed was a fair representation of earth. You, Me and Everything Else at the Soho Theatre is the story of what was included, how those decisions were made and what subsequently happened to the spacecraft. Interspersed is the more human story of love developing between a married scientist and an engaged novelist, whose partners are also on the committee, as they find common ground amid reflections on the meaning of life.
Part narrated, part acted, You, Me and Everything Else is an engaging and cleverly constructed piece of a theatre. It begins with a game of chance in which one member of the cast has to give a 90-second spiel on the message they would send to space, which sets up the main story. The narrated sections delivered conversationally by Hannah Goudie, Jessica Dawson and Jamie Tansley, are packed full of facts and tell the audience about what was chosen and the preparations for launch day. These never feel like a science lecture, more like a chat with an enthusiastic friend.
We learn there were 27 pieces of music chosen for the record, over 50 languages recording a greeting and more than 100 images selected relayed to the audience as laminated pictures and signs that litter the floor – subtly implying that the entire project was a wasted mission given that Voyager is still circling. But it also emphasises one of the major problems with the record – it was all too scientific. There were no great artworks, no sounds of creative thought and no concept of irrational love.
The story of Carl and Ann played by Robert Nicholson and Lauren Hurwood gives the piece real heart, allowing the intellectual attraction to build between them slowlywhile their respective partners Linda (Caroline Liversidge) and Tim (Adam Gibson) go blindly on with the project. The emphasis is on the happy coincidence of finding someone to love in this vast universe of possibilities but it’s played with genuine feeling by the cast that really does emphasise the too scientific approach taken when compiling the record that in all the facts missed out the emotional capacity of humanity.
You, Me and Everything Else is packed full of innovative stage-craft from using shoes like puppets to act out Carl and Ann’s first meeting, a spot-lit model of Voyager moving through the darkness, to the selection of music and sound effects. The central love story reflects the two sides of human nature; Carl is concerned with the practical and physiologicalwhile Ann focuses on imagination and legend, but together they are the perfect partnership. Perhaps that after all is the message to send from the earth, we have the capacity to imagine worlds beyond our own and the scientific endeavour to try tofind them.
Runs until 7 May 2016 | Image: Contributed