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Don’t Talk to Strangers by Hot Cousin at the Vault Festival | Review

Don’t Talk to StrangersSometimes, I go to a show and have no idea what is going to happen. In the case of Don’t Talk to Strangers at the Vault Festival, this lack of prior knowledge is intrinsic to the show. The Hot Cousin company state ‘welcome to the show, we don’t want to tell you anything about it before it starts, so sit back and listen to the trains’ and I’m going to try and protect that secrecy whilst reviewing this intriguing show.

At the heart of this show is a record. Not just any record, but a very special one, The Voyager Golden Records that were included aboard both Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. The records contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form who may find them. Two of the people involved in bringing these records to fruition were Carl Sagan and Ann Druyun, and Don’t Talk to Strangers is their story but taken to the cosmos. In fact, it is an extraterrestrial love story. A disco in a galaxy far far away. A rom-com set a warp speed.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you about the story itself. The four performers, Elana Binysh, Stephanie Fuller, Madeleine Lewis and Ally Poole, have created an eclectic mix of action, sound and lights to bring the show to life and, If I’m really honest, as I watched the just under an hour performance, my initial impressions were very much along the WTF line. But, and this is the important point, the show itself is actually really well put together and stays on the mind. As I was heading home, I was ruminating on what I had seen and it’s meaning. In my mind, I do know what the show was saying, and how well it was saying it, but I think this is one of those predictions where audience members may well interpret things differently. There is a lot going on and there were times where, due to the nature of the seating, it was difficult to see what everyone was doing – I can’t say why but you’ll understand when you get there.

For example, the golden record itself, could be perceived as being a means of reaching out to the universe, or an arrogant pushing of a, mainly male, agenda on an unsuspecting cosmos, or just an expression of hope that there is someone out there? You decide.

All told, the cast have put together a fun and very, very thought-provoking one-act show that challenges the point of the record and what happens in 40,000 years when Voyager 1 passes within 1.6 light-years’ distance of the star Gliese 445, currently in the constellation Camelopardalis (thank you Wikipedia), So, get along and enjoy this interstellar production of Don’t Talk to Strangers then go home and listen to the record yourselves.

3 Star Review

Review by Terry Eastham

What could be more romantic than giving your lover a mix tape? That’s what scientist Carl Sagan thought in 1977 when he compiled his Golden Record on behalf of all humanity and sent it shooting off into space in search of friendship, love and maybe more. Forty-two years later, why haven’t the aliens messaged us back? Is it because our message came across as arrogant, colonial and sexist?

‘Don’t Talk to Strangers’ is a disruptive parody of revisionist history – a story made by men but retold by women; four women on a collision course with our own problematic history. ‘Don’t Talk to Strangers’ is both an intersectional re-evaluation of this ground-breaking musical love letter and a trashy rom-com about us and the aliens.

Told through visually rich theatrical language, this ensemble show layers complex sound-art, celestial lighting and transcendental movement over a modern-day science fiction story. Structured like a mixtape, ‘Don’t Talk to Strangers’ is told through a series of vignettes, each moment building on the last; until the gravitational pull forces the story to fold in on itself. Come and witness both the vastness of interstellar space and the domestic intimacy of a love story. Flicker by flicker, Hot Cousin light the stage until it looks like the middle of the cosmos.

27 Feb – 1 Mar 2020


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