“Wonderfully intricate moments of physicality, with endearing characters, and moments of humour…

This year’s instalment of Wrong Tree’s annual devised piece ‘Too Close to the Sun’ weaves experimental physical theatre and pop hits amongst a gorgeously intricate set to explore the question: what would happen if the sun didn’t rise? The physical sequences are a true visual spectacle, and other than some issues with scripting and characterisation the show is strong on the whole. 

Split into three distinct scenes, the show centres around three groups on the peripheries of society: arctic explorers, doomsday survivalists, and an astronaut and AI pairing. The show opens with a short, solo physical sequence by arctic explorer Scarlett Clarke, into which all other cast members mould beautifully, creating a very strong physical foundation for the show to build upon. The ensuing scene features Clarke alongside her professor, played by Maariya Khalid, as they expect a solstice after over one hundred days of darkness. Their physical sequences are a highlight of the show, immediately setting a high standard for the ensuing scenes with their execution of perfectly synchronised movement. Portraying the pair’s confusions and anxieties upon realising the sun has not risen, there is a particularly wonderful moment where Khalid aggressively rips her papers, which are then held by other cast members around Clarke, who anxiously attempts to make sense of their findings.

The use of the entire cast to aid the protagonists of each scene in physical moments is employed throughout the show, and is a fantastic directorial choice by the team of Molly Knox, Horatio Holloway, and Felicity Rickard, weaving connections between three seemingly disparate scenes.

The following scene shows three doomsday survivalists in a bunker: the straight-to-the-point Amber (Bethan Avery), the naïve yet sweetly charming Colin (Harry Threapleton), and the cult-leader-type figure ‘The Silence’ (Oliver Grieves). The trio were fantastic at portraying humour in their dissonant concoction of personalities. In a nod to the previous scene, they receive morse code communication from the explorers, and the physical comedy of their receiving the message as ‘unnos’ rather than ‘no sun’ is done very well, in a fantastically creative moment of staging. This humour is done well, though I feel there are moments in this scene where characterisation lacks due to scripting issues. Equally, it becomes difficult to discern exactly where they are, why they are there, and the relationships between the characters. With some editing and more expository lines, however, I feel these issues can readily be overcome and allow this scene to be performed at its true potential. Kudos should also be given to stage fight co-ordinator Kate Broekman, whose choreography ensured the fight scene at this scene’s climax was smooth and believable.

The premise of the final scene is my favourite of the three, where astronaut (Mason Peach) engages with a robotic A.I. figure (Kalypso Papagiotou). Peach gives a strong comedic lipsynced performance to Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, followed by a musing on his position as the ‘middle child’ of space travel and how astronaut’s protein bars are too ‘standard’, giving a keen insight into his character’s anxieties and sardonic wit. I feel that the character of the astronaut is the most multi-dimensional, and Peach portrays these multiple character aspects well through vocal tone and facial expression. Papagiotou is equally strong in her portrayal of artificial intelligence Laika, employing a rhythmic voice and stiff movements. She also effectively brings humour to the role in rigid dance movements, only moments before engaging in moments of tenderness between herself and the astronaut. I do once again feel that there are issues with scripting, where plot points and non-staged characters are brought up but their significance is not fully realised. Again, though, with some tweaking these plot points can be developed.

I cannot review this show without paying testament to the entire production and stage crews, but most notably Carrie Cheung. Their set is incredible: carefully considered, intricate, and both gorgeously functional and symbolic – the set enhances the physical elements of the show so well in providing this complex yet beautiful background. Similarly, the production team of Aaron Lo and Indie Spafford wonderfully utilise lighting and sound, with almost all cues met perfectly. The lighting design is particularly effective, with red flashes denoting systems failing, coloured lights beautifully lighting physical sequences, and actors holding torches on stage at various points. I should also pay testament to DSM Nell Hickson who alongside Cheung ensures the smooth running of the show, and the producing team of Indie Spafford and Molly Knox, whose publicity work is wonderful.

‘Too Close to the Sun’ has wonderfully intricate moments of physicality, with endearing characters, and moments of humour; with some editing of the script I believe this show will be a fantastic, unique addition to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

By Sarah Kelly

To Close To The Sun will show at 19:00 at the Sir Thomas Allen Assembly Rooms Theatre on Friday the 8th and Saturday the 9th of March

Photo Credits: Wrongtree Theatre Company