Lyric Theatre Hammersmith Autumn 2019
Stanislaw Lem's science
fiction novel is something of a cult classic – that is, a book that
few have actually read – and the 1972 Russian and 2002 American
films based on it have small but loyal fan bases.
But I fear that
this stage adaptation written by David Greig and directed by Matthew
Lutton will not add significantly to the cult.
On a space station
orbiting a distant planet scientists begin seeing increasingly solid
apparitions of their dead loved ones, finally concluding that the
planet itself has a consciousness that is creating these figures out
of their memories and emotions.
Their attempt to
communicate with the
planet through its representatives, and a sustained ambiguity about
how benign either side is, make up the novel and play.
for a theatre audience, there is not much sci-fi to the play, just a
few people talking in various combinations on a sterile white set.
David Greig distances us
from the action even further by structuring
the play on a string of brief – sometimes no more than a few
seconds – black-out scenes, while the central character of a male
scientist is made female here, to no advantage.
Things are punctuated
at regular intervals by the projected image of a dead former member
of the science team, filling in reams of back story and exposition,
on the way to a carefully unresolved ending.
inevitably, of much of the novel's texture and depth, what comes
across is little more than an awkward mix of sci-fi cliches (with
strong echoes of Ray
Bradbury's Martian Chronicles and the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet)
and Star Trek-level philosophising ('Are we studying the planet or is
it studying us?').
With the cast given far
too little to work with,
only Polly Frame as the scientist torn between studying the
reincarnation of her dead lover and jumping into bed with him, and
Keegan Joyce as the carefree hippie coming to grips with the gradual
realisation he's not quite human, have the opportunity to do much
real acting, though ironically the most fully rounded-out
characterisation is provided by the only-onscreen Hugo Weaving.
Those few who have read the novel may be able to fill in what's missing here, but the rest are likely to find this version of Solaris too thin and uninvolving to be satisfying.
Receive alerts every time we post a new review
Review - Solaris - Lyric Hammersmith Theatre 2019