Theatre review: 140 Million Miles, Glasgow

With Brave New World playing at the King’s in Edinburgh this weekend, Adam Peck’s new Play, Pie And Pint drama – created at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol, and set to arrive at the Traverse on Tuesday – might almost have been conceived as companion piece to Aldous Huxley’s dystopian vision of a future in which humanity and compassion count for little, or perhaps for nothing at all.
140 Million Miles could have been conceived as a companion to Brave New World140 Million Miles could have been conceived as a companion to Brave New World
140 Million Miles could have been conceived as a companion to Brave New World

Peck’s two characters, Dawn and Neil, are a down-on-their-luck young working-class couple from Bristol whose attention is caught by an advert seeking volunteers to become the first couple on Mars, part of a great experiment which will help shape the future of the human race.

Denied most of the elements of a decent life on earth – including steady work, a home of their own, or a child, which they’ve been unable to have – Dawn and Neil are still full of the can-do, let’s-get-famous rhetoric of our time; and so, under a fierce glare of media attention, they come through the selection system, and set out on their nine-month journey to the Red Planet, accompanied all the way by the soothing voice of mission control, superbly played by Vincenzo Pellegrino.

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All does not go according to plan, though; and Rosie Mason and Darren Seed turn in a pair of increasingly magnificent and poignant performances, as the gung-ho, childlike positivity forced on them by the media culture of their home planet gives way to a mature recognition that they have been used, and abused, and are now facing almost inevitable oblivion. “We were never able to do anything about anything, were we?” says Dawn; as the spare, resonant strength of Peck’s writing transforms the couple’s lost spaceship into a powerful metaphor for the place in which most ordinary citizens now find themselves, beguiled by the transient prospect of possible media fame into accepting the most profound kind of powerlessness, when it comes to building a sustainable future either for ourselves, or for humanity as a whole.

• Oran Mor, Glasgow, final performance today, and Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tuesday to Saturday.