Think of science, and it still tends to conjure up an image of clever men in white coats conducting experiments; or of brave men leading expeditions of discovery, whether to the rainforests, or to the moon. All that is beginning to change, though, as female scientists, explorers and astronauts make their voices heard; and it’s perhaps significant that this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival commission, for a piece of children’s theatre, went to the Moray-based company Frozen Charlotte for their show Valentina’s Galaxy, inspired by the story of the world’s first-ever female space traveller, the Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who went into space in June 1963.
Edinburgh Science Festival: Valentina’s Galaxy *** | The Element In The Room **** | Space Ape ****
So the show begins, startlingly, with director Heather Fulton and designer Katy Wilson conjuring up an image of a 1960s kitchen, in which a prettily clad ideal housewife smartly played by Ellie Griffiths begins to disrupt stereotypes by tweaking various pieces of technology out of the fridge and cupboards, and setting up for a moon launch. There’s also another figure present, inspired by the black American astronaut Mae Gemison, a remarkable woman who challenged stereotypes on two fronts; although Joy Maria Onotu’s wordless dance sequences in this role definitely need more explanation, to bring out their full significance.
The flight begins, with a starry sky unfolding above the audience; but then, after thoroughly capturing our imaginations, the show suddenly ends after a bare 35 minutes, without anything resembling a conclusion. It’s a show full of promise, in other words; but it still looks uncompleted, and seems desperately in need of the services of a writer who could craft a fully joined-up story out of this powerful collage of imagery and ideas.