Profile: If I Die on Mars
Queen Mary's Theatre Company (QMTC) is heading to Edinburgh Festival Fringe with some exciting new shows and amongst them is writer/theatre producer Clarice Montero's If I Die on Mars, a striking, contemplative play set around a Mars Mission Programme- similar to the recently failed Mars One endeavour.
In this play, a jury of 'five random citizens must agree that astronauts' lives are worth risking for the greater good of scientific discovery'. The pioneering spirit of this production, mixed with its underlying moral contemplation, is sure to make it a hit at previews in London and during its run in Edinburgh.
Co-directed by Montero and Mariella Bucci, the show is set to have little pomp or circumstance, with the only staging being ~ space stalls ~ that make the play all the more intimate and compelling.
Upon meeting the cast, comprised of five jurors, Abigail Whitney, India Raniolo, Sophie O'Connor, Andrew Atha and Peter Smart, it became clear how passionate they were about the subject matter. It is refreshing to see such an enthusiastic group of young people interacting with contemporary issues, in a thoughtful, innovative way.
Inspired by the somewhat shambolic efforts of Baz Lansbdrop's Mars One mission, which proposed a one-way ticket to Mars for a select 100 people that Lansbdrop hoped to fund and market 'as a reality show, in space'. Whatever your opinions of Mars One, whether you view it as a misguided, somewhat dystopian endeavour, or a brave pioneering act, these opinions are being called into question by this play.
What is intriguing about this production is the intertwinement of the ever-growing industry of space exploration and the very real mental and physical health threats it poses to astronauts. How far can someone consent to a mission that has such a slim chance of survival?
What the play highlights is just how risky a mission to Mars would be and the moral burden placed on those deciding who should go. With experts claiming that the 'isolation and confinement [of space travel] can push even disciplined astronauts to the breaking point', it isn't just physical harm that aspiring Martians need to worry about.
Cast members were quick to draw attention to the deeper meaning of the play, Raniolo asserting how the play was a fictionalisation of Lansbdrop's failed endeavour and the moral implications expansive space travel will ultimately have on society. O'Connor went on to praise the play for its 'balanced' nature, giving 'all sides possible [of] why people would want to go to Mars', while Whitney championed the 'out of this world' and 'versatile' format of the play.
In an interesting discussion with the cast, they explored the arguments for and against the colonisation of Mars. Atha raised the issue of cultivating a new planet, that could be just as dangerous, if not more so than our own, arguing that our efforts might be better spent combating climate change. While Smart countered this point, suggesting that space exploration is a necessity otherwise, with an increasing population, there would be little less than one person per square meter on earth.
It is clear that this show is a passion project for Montero, with the playwright emphasising the importance of conscious casting. Montero stated that she chose the group of five because not only are they 'adaptable', an important point as the show 'involves multi-rolling', but the necessity of inclusivity, and her keenness to subvert outdated character casting. Montero affirming that: 'having a leader who is a black woman [who] has a lot of power is interesting to watch [...] equally having an outsider be a white male is an interesting choice as well'.
Not only is this play conscious of contemporary and moral issues, but the importance of equal representation. The thoughtful cast and contributors, with original music by Abi Adebayo and tireless efforts from stage manager, Rory Henderson, and social media manager, Christian Markham, the group are an example of how modern theatre should be conducted: with curiosity, care and competency.
If I Die on Mars debuts in London at 7 pm on 3rd of August at the Pinter Studio, in the Arts One building of QMUL's campus; the play then heads, along with other QMTC productions to Edinburgh in late August. For more details click here.
Other incredible productions by QMTC include:
- Rock'n'Roll Girls, for tickets and information, click here,
- Auto-Nation, for tickets and information, click here,
- At This Stage, for tickets and information, click here.