New Zealand’s Dusty Room Productions bring Alone to the Assembly Festival this Edinburgh Fringe. This bleak slice of science-fiction from writer-director Luke Thornborough sees performers Courtney Bassett and Kat Glass take centre stage in this overlong yet somewhat effective drama.
Dr Sarah Taylor (Glass) is on the home stretch of a space mission aimed at obtaining microbes to salvage a climate change ravaged earth. Alongside pilot Jessica Holland (Bassett), the pair must attempt to return to earth with this monumental discovery; however a failing ship may stand in their way.
This ninety minute two-hander presents two women struck in a claustrophobic environment, two years into their mission. Both have a number of differences regarding their principles, faiths, and behaviours – yet have advanced in their male-dominated fields. Alone’s first half centres on the differences between the two characters being highlighted – with themes of grief, religion, sexuality, the environment and sexism all acknowledged within this. Alone fails to delve into any of these in any particular depth, with the initial rapport between the character touching on multiple expansive themes, but never quite getting its teeth into them resulting in quite a sluggishly paced first half.
With more stakes resting on the latter half of the narrative, Alone steps up a gear, allowing Thornborough’s production to shift into a more suspenseful and traditional slice of sci-fi. Visually, this two-hander springs more to life, with impressive lighting channelled through floor-based strip lighting and a pulsing spotlight utilised to craft a mounting sense of peril. Powerful sound work amidst the claustrophobic set design also keeps proceedings effectively dramatic.
Performances from Glass and Bassett are impressive as the stakes get higher. Tension between the two characters mounts as they are pushed to breaking point with themes of protection of the self versus scientific good being introduced, adding some narrative conflict to the fold.
There is an effective hour long play within Alone and some trimming of the first half would lead to a punchier piece.