BWW Review: SOLARIS, Lyric Hammersmith
On an isolated space station, far away from human life, three scientists sit and observe Solaris - a newly discovered place made solely of water, which orbits around two suns without ever going off course. Originally a place of unsurety, the planet slowly reveals itself to be a place full of life; the beings that inhabit it are known as 'visitors', and slowly begin to drop by to bother the investigators. Resembling the people that were once lost, their presence on the satellite causes lots of turmoil and agony.
Scientific adventure gets in the way of ethical choice, as Polly Frame's Kelvin battles with what her heart wants, compared to what her head knows to be right. Her former lover Ray, an oceanographer who died in the sea that's played by Keegan Joyce, appears to her, causing the well-loved memories to flood back. But it isn't real, for Solaris is giving the psychologist what she wants to see. Her dreams are playing out in reality. As the other two Sartorious and Snow try to convince her of the truth, letting the intense attachment go proves harder than it initially seems.
Matthew Lutton's production is packed with lots of technical innovation; projection, sound, lighting and set design all come together to create a terrifyingly believable world. Hyemi Shin's stage is impeccably detailed, yet at the same time it's incredibly interchangeable. In a matter of seconds a different room with a new design appears, and then the curtain comes down and a new space is uncovered. It's very impressive, but at the same time it does become quite predictable, especially in the second half when you search for greater innovation.
Solaris doesn't feel like anything you haven't seen before. The majority of us will have watched a story of space travel, where tough decisions have to be made and the human condition is questioned and interrogated. Despite the fact you're not going to learn anything new here, you will enjoy the ride, and that's probably because of the fine performances the cast exhibit. David Greig's dialogue ricochets back and forth, providing some highly watchable moments. But as the story goes on, it loses its pace and intention, and as an audience you search for a greater purpose to the narrative.
Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic