Wednesday, 1 December 1999

Icarus Orbit by Trefor Gare, Dec 1, 1999

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Remember David Bowie's Major Tom, "floating in a tin can, far above the world"? Well, he has returned in Australian form, as Captain Tom Simpson, an unemployed tram conductor who got a job through Centrelink as the first Australian astronaut.

Planet earth is blue and there is absolutely nothing he can do. On his ship called Icarus Orbit, his TTT computer system (Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow) crashed when the date clocked over from '99 to '00.

Trefor Gare is alone on stage as Captain Tom. Gare. In his nifty NASA look-alike overall (designed by Melinda Brodie), Tom, our first Austranaut, looks as vulnerable as a child - and he is.

Tom sends intermittent video transmissions home. They become more disjointed as he faces a problematic re-entry. He solves his communications system error with an old home remedy, but his navigation is another story.

Gare devised Icarus Orbit over this year. He employs an idiosyncratic style tht integrates physicality and comic dialogue. He has created a cute and finally poignant narrative with some very funny moments.

My favourite image is a fine theatrical device. Gare creates an illusion that we are looking down, from on high, on a corporate table as three space executives discuss Tom's plight. Gare shifts swiftly between the three distinct characters. More of this clarity of character elsewhere would be effective.

He also creates the illusion of floating in space and provides us, within a simple set, with little magical details such as the blue-green earth floating in space. Lightig and AV design by Jilian Judges, enhance the other-worldliness of the piece.

There is a good deal of Kubrik's 2001, A Space Odyssey in Icarus. Hal is replaced by some metaphysical communication through a nearby orbiting satellite. There is also some comical interference from a Sex Chat Room when Tom is trying to contact earth.

Gare is inclined to pull the dramatic rug out from under his more serious moments, sometimes to the detriment of the emotional and dramatic thread of his narrative.

Icarus Orbit is a light and effective version of space trave Oz-style.

by Kate Herbert

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