Solaris at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Science fiction isn’t normally my preferred choice of entertainment. But I’d go to the moon and back (well, maybe the stratosphere. I’m not brave enough to go further!)) to see again this latest creation from the pen of the Lyceum’s artistic director David Greig.

This man’s imagination and way with words never ceases to amaze me. Together with Australian director Matthew Lutton (the play premiered at Lutton’s Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne, Australia in June and features a few Australian technicians and an actor), he has produced a piece of theatre which incorporates everything a theatregoer is looking for: love, humour, psychological thrills, gore… and relationships. Only this production goes even further to investigate the last subject by introducing a planet with consciousness, and ‘visitors’ who come from the subconscious of the scientists inhabiting a space station.

Sounds deep? I suppose it is, but it’s presented in such a way that is enthralling and entertaining.

To be fair, it is an adaptation of an iconic 1960s novel by Stanislaw Lem, which was later made into a cult movie and a George Clooney remake. But none of that interests me. What does is how Greig, Lutton and the company of actors and technicians have created an other-worldly experience.

Behind Hyemi Shin’s clinical white set lies a whole different universe for us to explore.  But though Paul Jackson’s stunning light show bathes the stage in unearthly colours, the play’s characters are very much down-to-earth.

When Kris arrives to take her two colleagues back home, she cuts an authoritative figure as their commander, but the appearance of an old lover reduces her almost to that of a lovesick schoolgirl, and Polly Frame plays the part with gusto. Sartorius, on the other hand, is wary of the situation which is developing on the space station and Jade Ogugua’s reticence is palpable, while Fode Simbo, as Snow, is very much the lad about town with an Hawaiian shirt covering his uniform T-shirt.     

Apart from an enchanting child who makes several entrances and exits, this leaves Keegan Joyce as Kris’s former lover, Ray, who had died some time before. That he is a manifestation of her dreams is the core of the story. Developed from the planet, he is essentially an alien and Joyce’s inhuman portrayal, with his ungainly gait and irrational behaviour, is both subtle and extraordinary.

Hugo Weaving completes the cast as the station’s old commander who has recently died but left a series of videos which feature throughout the proceedings.

One aspect (of many) which I like about this production is the way the scenes are separated by a flat descending at the front of the stage, accompanied by what sounds like a rocket boost – an exciting and atmospheric addition to the production, thanks to sound designer Jethro Woodward.

This play will have you intrigued, gasping in horror, laughing and, if you’re anything like me, too choked to speak as the curtain goes down.I suppose you could say it's out of this world!

Solaris is at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh until Oct 5.
Box Office: 0131 248 4848 www.lyceum.org.uk
Image: Mihaela Bodlovic