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Review of PLUTO at the Cockpit Theatre

Pluto CharonAs humans, we often talk about Mother Earth, as if the planet was a real person. Well, what if she was? What if all the celestial bodies observed in the night sky were real with personalities, thoughts and ideas of their own? How would the universe look then? Welcome my friends to Callum O’Brien’s Pluto which, after a very successful run at the King’s Head has just touched down at the Cockpit Theatre.

It’s party time and Pluto (Liam Joseph) is really hoping everyone will turn up. However, so far only his local moon Charon (Charlotte Price) has arrived and, while she is a good companion to the lonely Pluto, she is also the only body that ever turns up to Pluto’s parties. However, this evening is going to be different. Firstly an unexpected metal probe marked with the logo of Earth’s NASA has arrived for Pluto and secondly, Charon has secretly arranged for some extra entertainment tonight in the shape of a Stripper (Thomas Lovell). So all is set for a rip roaring evening of excitement and jollity until Pluto decides to read the letter in the NASA’s probe when everything changes and even the great Weaver would have trouble getting this party back on track.

At first glance, Pluto could be considered an odd comedy play with elements of farce most of which work and not much more. But that would really be to miss the whole message of the writing. In reality, Callum O’Brien has written a really deep and sensitive play that covers many issues. How we see ourselves, how others see us and what happens when someone in a position of power decides to label us in a way that is different from our own perception. After all, being given a label doesn’t affect who we are. Yesterday I was Terry, today I’m that Terry with glasses. Ultimately I’m still Terry, right? But am I or am I now defined by the label I’ve been given. Pluto explores the same idea but in a much more amusing and sensitive way.

Not to say that the play is all deep and meaningful throughout. In fact, over the course of its sixty minutes run time, there are some moments of real hilarity – the cringe inducing stripping scene had me chuckling loudly throughout – and really thought-provoking monologues – Charon’s discourse on her friendship with Pluto was a real plea from the heart that held the audience spellbound, and although I’m still not sure why she did what she did at the end – no spoilers – I sort of felt in my heart that it was the right thing to do.

Giuliana Davolio’s set is small but very effective – I particularly liked the design of the cosmic void, which felt absolutely right – I have to say I absolutely loved Pluto’s shoes and so want a pair now. The three actors fitted their roles perfectly. Liam Joseph’s Pluto was a really likeable fellow just trying to make his way in the world and find a reason for his existence. He also does a pretty mean impression of Saturn. Charlotte Price brings a wonderful energy and playfulness to the role of Charon, a companion moon desperate to keep her planet happy and always inventing games for them to play. Funnily enough, I found the most endearing thing about Charon was her concern for all the dogs sent up by the Russians and Americans during the space race. In all my years, I’ve never once given them a thought, so, for a moon, Charon definitely has more humanity than me. Finally, Thomas Lovell as the never named Stripper was just fab-u-lous. As camp as Christmas, Thomas minced his way through the horrible – yet hilarious – striptease and made the Stripper so much more than just a comet slumming it in the world of adult entertainment. The three actors together had a nice relaxed air about them during the show. This was obviously a production they were all familiar with and really enjoyed performing together as a cast.

So, Pluto was an odd one for me. When the lights went up, my initial reaction was, ‘what was that?’ But, over the course of the evening, I’ve come to appreciate the fine writing and acting, and realise that it was a very interesting and thought-provoking show with a good message to send out into the cosmos.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

MOONCHILD Present PLUTO
The year is 2016.
TIME Person of the Year is Donald Trump, the masses grieve for Harambe and NASA’s probe, New Horizons, has completed its 10 year voyage to Pluto.

The loneliest planet in our solar system struggles with his identity;
a probe from Earth arrives bearing information that turns his world upside down.
Comets and moons are brought to life in this quirky tale of friendship, labels, and space dogs!

PLUTO
A cosmic supernova that we can all relate to
MON 14 AUG to THU 17 AUG 2017
http://thecockpit.org.uk/

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