The Astronaut's Chair

A story that needs to be told

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It’s the final production week on The Astronaut’s Chair, Assistant Director Bethany reflects on the process now that it’s curtain up…

“And so the rocket has well and truly left the launchpad. The press night drinks have been drunk, the hangovers have been had and the show is now well and truly up and running.
It’s true to say that you never really know a show until you’ve put it in front of an audience. They are certainly the missing part of the jigsaw and their involvement has an immediate effect on the feel and rhythm of the show: some shows provoke a taut, listening audience; others a more raucous appreciation. What’s clear about this show so far is that, while the larger than life antics of some of the characters may provoke laughter, the gripping, and little known, story means that an audience really wants to listen.

“A preview period is a great tool for seeing how the audience responds and letting the show grow with it. Inevitably, the adrenaline of live theatre gives every performance an extra edge (this is even true if you are behind the scenes: directors often watch preview shows with their hearts in their mouths). There are always surprises too: laughs in places you might never have expected, less welcome prop malfunctions and burgeoning ideas that suddenly become beautifully crafted moments, or, conversely, ideas you realise might not have been so great after all…

“The true nature of the play will often manifest itself at this point too. To my mind, it has emerged that this is really character driven piece, to which the exhilarating space race is both the driving factor and the context. In a time when female representation on stage, as in most other industries, is still an issue, it is a great tribute to highlight these pioneering women whose stories Munro has chosen to tell . Almost no one who has been part of this production process or who has seen the show had heard of this quite incredible true story beforehand. These two remarkable female pilots, based on the real life figures Jackie Cochrane and Jerrie Cobb, have all but been wiped from history. It is a story that needs to be told and heard – the more I watch the show, the more its themes seem to chime with today. As Rona says in her author’s note, women today are still often fighting over one available chair at the table. Like all good theatre, this play succeeds in making a remarkable piece of history comment on our contemporary existence.”

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