Would you go to Mars?

Nikki Kalman

A blog post from the Space Ape rehearsal room by assistant director Nikki Kalkman

Would you go to Mars?

Would you travel for over ten months risking life and limb to explore the next greatest frontier?

Would you face this new and hostile environment with courage and curiosity?

Would you battle through isolation and the constant danger to explore the beauty, mystery and wonder of this vastly unknown red planet?

It sounds like I’ve watched the Martian one too many times, doesn’t it…

I haven’t. But these are some of the questions, perhaps a little less dramatically phrased, that have arisen in the Space Ape rehearsal room over the last few weeks of development. Space Ape is a new piece of young people’s storytelling theatre conceived and devised by Andy Cannon and produced by Red Bridge Arts. I have had the great pleasure of working along side Andy as Assistant Director since January.

Now, as the creative team heads up to Perth for our final week of rehearsals and tech before opening on Friday April 6th, I thought I would give you all a brief insight into what we have all been doing for the last few weeks.

I should start at the beginning. January 8th the first day of development.  Although this wasn’t the beginning. Not by a million minutes. Part of the inspiration for Space Ape came 50 years ago when a wee young boy, Andy Cannon was up way past his bed time patiently awaiting for Apollo 11, the first manned mission, to land on that not too distant place that glows white in the night sky – the moon.

The Apollo 11 spacecraft, consisting of command module Columbia and the lunar module, Eagle travelled over 240,000 miles from the Earth to the moon in just 76 hours, landed on the moon at 4:17pm EDT on July 20th 1969, with only 40 more seconds of fuel. Almost 6 hours later, at 10:56pm EDT Armstrong speaks those immortal words. They still send a chill down my spine even to this day; “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. He becomes the first human to ever set foot on the moon and in that moment captures the hopes, imagination and ambition of an entire generation.

I don’t remember this moment- I’m too young. 25 years (ish) too young. But I remember seeing the awe and fascination in own my mother’s eyes when she told me the story of her ten year old self standing outside in the snow on a cold July night in Auckland, New Zealand. There amongst her neighbours and friends, as they all gathered around the window of the first shop on their street to sell TV sets. Together they all watched. As did, on the other side of the planet, a wee boy named Andy Cannon. A brief and strange moment of togetherness for most of the western world.

But Space Ape isn’t just about the lunar landing – it’s about all space and time and history and our presence as humans within all that chaos.

It sounds like a lot doesn’t it, especially for a children’s show.

Ok, so maybe I need to break it down into more manageable pieces.

It’s about us.
It’s about the big bang.
It’s about early man.
It’s about going to the moon.
It’s about going to mars.
It’s about a chimp in a space suit.
It’s about ethics.
It’s about storytelling.
It’s about imagination.
It’s about the beautiful precious planet we call earth.
It’s about bravery and courage.
It’s about right and wrong.

Ok maybe this isn’t helping.

It’s been an intriguing and investigative rehearsal period. These last few months have been about weaving together all these ideas. Exploring these various stories and the science that accompanies them. Auditioning each fact and number; picking them up dusting them off and looking at them from different angles. Ensuring that the science, those facts, as vital as they are to a show about space, inform the drama- not the other way around.  It wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that I have found myself, at the end of a rehearsal day, pushing my brain back into my ears after it has exploded outwards from the sheer unimaginableness of a new fact. Would you like to hear a few we have uncovered recently? Ready…. Hands over yours ears?

If the sun, our closest star, was the size of a grapefruit and was placed at the top of Arthur’s Seat then the next closest grapefruit (star) would be in Athens. Ka-boom!

There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the beaches of Earth. Ka-boom!

The sunset on Mars appears blue. Yep blue!

Venue’s surface temperature is over 450 degrees Celsius. That’s hot!

Humans share approximately 98% of their DNA with chimps, 70% with slugs and 50% with a banana. You heard it – your breakfast shares your DNA.

And my favourite, which comes directly from the JFK’s space race speech;

If we condense down our entire human history of 50,000 years into just a simple 50 years, we know very little about those first 40 years.  But ten years ago, humanity emerged from its caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Five years ago humanity learned to write and use a cart with wheels. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago the steam engine provided a new source of power. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week we developed penicillin and television and nuclear power.

And adjusting for the fifty years since the time that speech was written; yesterday man walked on the moon. About a minute ago the Internet was invented and in the next few days we could realistically be asking people that ultimate question.

Would you like to go to Mars?


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