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Brighton Fringe 2024

Strange Orbits

Do Not Go Gentle Theatre Company

Genre: Contemporary, Sci-fi, Theatre

Venue: The Rotunda


Low Down

Pioneers on Mars, post-Earth apocalypse, celebrate their wedding anniversary, but bombshells loom.


It’s not news that planet Earth finds itself in a perilous state right now. The issue that successive Governments just will not tackle is that of climate change. They mostly seem to understand though, painfully agreeing wordings of various edicts. The aim of The Paris Agreement was to keep global temperature rises this century to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However, scientists seem to be in agreement that this remains unlikely : IPCC scientists, in a current poll, believe 2.7 degrees Celsius higher is most likely. Many ecological tipping points are looming – e.g. the collapse of Greenland’s ice cap, the melting of permafrost. Tipping points will also trigger further tipping points, producing cascades ; at a certain point, we will be too late to prevent disaster. Humanity will inevitably suffer catastrophic consequences, including, but not limited to, insurrection, drought, famine and war.

And then we have global politics, which once again seem to be on a  knife-edge. The world in the 21st century seems to be becoming a more dangerous place. Having endured the cold war and the very real threat of nuclear war (in Europe and the Cuban Missile Crisis), we may have thought that the threat had dissipated. However, the danger of nuclear apocalypse has returned and seems to be very real.

We pick up the story of Strange Orbits some years into the future – we are told that the Earth was laid waste by nuclear war but that a select few managed to escape into space. Lily (Carly Hendricks) is about to celebrate her 10 year wedding anniversary with Jasper (Mat Glessing). They are pioneers on Mars : she a scientist, he a billionaire with the financial wherewithal to flee Earth.

Two bombshells land on Lily – one to do with the demise of Earth (no spoilers). The other concerns how she was selected for her job by Jasper – despite being an expert in her field, she was selected on looks, with chauvinistic Jasper hoping to forge a relationship. These revelations very much put a dampener on their anniversary celebrations and Lily looks at him with fresh eyes.

The staging is minimalist, Fringe-friendly, black boxes with sparse props in Rotunda’s Bubble space, affording the actors space to tell their story. It seems that an attempt was made to preserve the soul of humanity by exporting examples of art and culture. Lily’s attire is striking – a red evening gown, but, coupled with her hairstyle, is it suggestive of Roman times ? Perhaps – given that some of the dialogue is delivered in Shakespearean form, not only occasionally quoting his text but at one moment also some lyrics from Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet. Is this a conscious attempt to preserve Shakespearian language for humanity ? While it is charming, it ironically has the (unintended) consequence of jarring the rhythm of the couple’s dialogue and their relationship is consequently slightly impacted, although both performances are strong.

The idea of billionaires abandoning Earth to go into space is hardly far-fetched : in recent years, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, amongst others, have embarked upon space travel. The echoes of Ben Elton’s novel STARK, written around 35 years ago, are highly resonant.

Do Not Go Gentle Theatre Company’s play contains a prescient and clear warning that we need to radically change now or suffer the consequences. We enjoy the benefits and fruits of the modern world, but these are resultant from the industrial revolution that now gives humanity its existential crisis.

“Earth was our paradise” declare the cast. Is it too late in 2024 ? Political expediency seems to be holding sway still – Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion are now criminalised for protesting under the U.K.’s recent Public Order Act. They believe that they are on the right side of history though.

God is in the big and the small : Lily’s physical world was destroyed and suddenly, after 10 years, her marriage is severely tested. Jasper and Lily have gone from a happy couple to strange orbits.