Left – Leeanna Walsman and Keegan Joyce. Cover – Keegan Joyce and Leeanna Walsman. Photos – Pia Johnson
"Mysterious planet. Incomprehensible intelligence. Ghosts of regret." The planet is Solaris and it has been orbiting its two suns for eons. According to the scientific team from "The Institute," suspended above in their space station, Solaris is sentient and it wants to make contact.
An intriguing idea – a planet that has believed itself to be alone within the vastness of the universe at long last has an opportunity to connect with another intelligent life force. Stanislaw Lem's 1962 novel Solaris has been adapted for the stage by David Greig. Unfortunately where there is promise of exploration of what it means to be open and vulnerable in the presence of other and to self, feels after 90 mins merely a pedestrian exercise in dramatics.
Sound, lighting and stage design (Jethro Woodward, Paul Jackson, Hyemi Shin) are effective and efficient in creating the austere, utilitarian surroundings of a space station. However the constant closing of the curtain to facilitate set changes becomes distracting.
Grieg talks about "loneliness and the contradictory force of desire to be ourselves and also have a desire to melt away... to disappear within the group" as the core theme of the work. This contradiction is demonstrated when the members of the team Kris (Leeanna Walsman), Dr Snow (Fode Simbo) and Dr Sartorist (Jade Ogugua) are haunted by the arrival of "the visitors". These humanoid manifestations take the form of a dear, departed, loved one. Embody the moment of true connection, when gone, the moment of total emotional disconnect.
It is Kris who wholy embraces this unexpected chance to relive the love she had and lost, when her lover (Keegan Joyce) died having never recovered from her cruel rejection. And it is on her journey that the audience should be swept up amongst the conflict and torment of what it is to want so desperately to be seen, nurtured and claimed by another, yet at the same time feel wary and question the value of gain and loss to sense of self. But it is only when Ray begins to unravel as he (Solaris) comes to realise he understands himself as the mirror image of the collective memories of another, that the emotional temperature rises above tepid.
Not even the presence of Hugo Weaving (Dr Gibarion), seen only on film, can bring any intensity to the narrative.
That a planet is lonely and, realising it is not alone, taps into what it recognises as the dark recesses of isolation in another, offers a unique premise to explore the human condition. Unfortunately, instead of being intrigued you are left unmoved and underwhelmed.
Malthouse Theatre, The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Lyric Hammersmith present
by David Greig | adapted from the novel by Stanisław Lem
Director Matthew Lutton
Venue: Merlyn Theatre | The Coopers Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank VIC
Dates: 28 June – 21 July 2019
Bookings: (03) 9685 5111 | malthousetheatre.com.au