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Theatre Review: Solaris ****

Joy Watters reviews a production that 'takes the audience on a deeply unsettling journey'.

This first stage adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s 1962 best selling sci-fi novel takes the audience on a deeply unsettling journey where they are asked to scale the barriers to outer space in order to re-examine the human psyche.

First seen on celluloid in Andrei Tarkowsky’s cult film of 1972, and 30 years later in Steven Soderbergh’s movie (starring George Clooney), this dramatised Solaris has been written by Lyceum artistic director, David Greig.

A co-production with Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne, whose Matthew Lutton directs, and with Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, it is a production that initially seems to sear the eyeballs with the power of its lighting.

A psychologist, Kris Kelvin, travels to a space station, orbiting the planet of Solaris. The interior of the craft is blindingly white (designer Hyemi Shin), the sterile dazzle only broken by a black screen which fills the stage and divides up the narrative as do projections of the monochrome waves of Solaris’ ocean.

Polly Frame as Kris leads from the front, packing a punch as the new arrival, halted in her tracks on discovering her scientific mentor recently killed himself and totally confounded when the oh so real ghost of a former lover appears to infiltrate her lonely existence.

The team of three scientists ask whether Solaris is actually conscious, a sentient being trying to communicate through the ghost visitors.

In a finely judged performance, Jade Oguga as Dr Sartorius reminds the crew of its scientific purpose coolly setting aside the vision of her dead child that haunts the station.

Running throughout are the video diaries of the recently deceased Dr Gibarian, assuredly played by Hugo Weaving bringing together scholarship and the realisation that mere mortals are powerless to understand something much bigger than themselves.

Runs until October 5.

Tags: theatre

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