Tasteful, engaging and entertaining, One Small Step is one brave step for Cambridge Theatre.
Physical theatre is notably absent from our little theatre scene, with few opportunities for actors to display and develop this telling and dexterous talent. This weeks’ Corpus late show is a healthy and well-staged reminder that theatre needn’t be delineated into the pensively serious and the overtly comic.
The stage, pleasingly filled with props and set-costume enough to fuel the laziest of exam-term imaginations, encourages you to explore and question with your minds eye as the play unfolds. The actors novel and effective manipulation of props, bodies and voice encourages you to look beyond the stage setting and imagine the intricacies of the story they recount. These movements are effective, and evidently thoroughly explored and crafted- giving life to the otherwise least noticeable of objects and bringing the entire stage into action, testament to the directorial skill of Isaac Jordan.
Jon Tontil and Saskia Moriamo Ross form the agile pair in this production, bouncing well off each other and emanating a sense of childish glee in the process, without marring the more serious, moving moments. This energetic pair navigate the play well, and can be forgiven for seeming a little underrehearsed in some of the transitions because of their sheer number and complexity for student theatre. By its very nature One Small Step is a play with comical mishaps, but the moments of purest gold came when the actors (most notably Jon) had to tackle issues with props which are inevitable when so many are in action at once. Yet these moments softened what could so easily have been a cringe-inducing slice of meta-theatre, turning it instead into a perfectly natural swoop in perspective. Well paced energy was sustained throughout the more contemplative passages of the play, and the well chosen sound and lighting intensified the magic.
The show’s premise is that it should be mad and impossible to tell the whole story of the Space Race in an hour, with two actors and a room full of junk. This insanity, in a way, is the essence of the Space Race. Like in Kennedy’s speech ‘we choose to go to the moon, not because it is easy but because it is hard’. Forgive the cheese in my suggestion but Jordan seems to subscribe to the same attitude towards theatre – and successfully.
Delightfully well designed and so evidently workshopped as a brave and committed ensemble, One Small Step deserves a full house not only for the craft shown on stage, but because the more students who see this craft in action, the more creative our theatre scene might become. This is storytelling at a different level to the Cambridge norm, and it deserves to be celebrated.