Apollo 13: The Dark Side of the Moon review survival and enlightenment – The Guardian

Posted: October 14, 2020 at 6:54 am


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Masters of their craft Michael Salami, Tom Chambers and Christopher Harper as the beleaguered crew

What makes this play by Torben Betts gripping is the thrill of a life-and-death tale told at the pace of a documentary. As the heroic orchestral swells of Sophie Cottons score give way to unsettling electronic pulses, the playwright thrusts us into the cabin of Apollo 13, where three astronauts must abandon their hopes of a moon landing in order to survive.

With the loss of an oxygen tank jeopardising the power, they must use the moons gravitational pull to swing them back to Earth. Even if you know what happens, it makes for a tense ride.

The mood is amplified by directors Alastair Whatley and Charlotte Peters of Original theatre who, with film director Tristan Shepherd, focus tightly on the faces of the desperate crew. The technique saves the actors from having to share the same space, solving the problem of social distancing, but the effect is to draw us intimately towards the action.

You get the impression, though, that Betts is less interested in what is known than what is unknown. The statistics, the ground-control updates and the famous Houston, weve had a problem line are all present, but as the lighting changes from a high-definition lunar glow to brooding shadows on the moons dark side, Betts uses the cover of radio silence to speculate.

He imagines a tussle about the history of US racism between Michael Salamis Fred Haise, cast as an African American, and Tom Chambers as the rightwing Jack Swigert. The argument is not subtle but the playwrights plea that we find our common humanity is timely as we seek perspective on the schisms and isolation of our own world.

Available online.

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Apollo 13: The Dark Side of the Moon review survival and enlightenment - The Guardian

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October 14th, 2020 at 6:54 am

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