The first man in space is back on Earth and facing new temptations. Fame, fortune, alcohol, nostalgic space anthems and sex are all presented to Yuri Gagarin in new show, Space Junk. Showing at Edinburgh’s Fringe this August, The Fountain caught up with Artistic Director, Jake Mace, about Space Junk and his plans beyond the Fringe.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?
Massively exciting! It’s our third year at the Fringe as a company now and it hasn’t been any less daunting/exhilarating even having taken shows up a few times now. So far, there’s been a lot of excitement given that we’ve managed to capture quite a lot of attention in regards to our show’s subject matter – given that it’s the 50th anniversary of the moon landings this year. We’re gearing up now and the hype among all of our company members is definitely high. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of new work and getting back on the Royal Mile. I always look forward to the fun you can have flyering and the people you meet. I’m also looking forward to going back to my favourite Edinburgh pubs, of course.
TF: Space Junk certainly sounds intriguing, what is the premise?
It’s an all new, musical exploration of the story of Yuri Gagarin, who was the first man in space back in 1961. When he fell back to Earth, he struggled to deal with his newfound fame and we wanted to explore that through our modern lens of fame. Overnight fame and sudden stardom is so prevalent in our modern society, with YouTube stars and internet celebrities dominating our new forms of media. As a young person, a member of the so-called “Instagram Generation”, I wanted to take a look at Gagarin’s story through this lens.
Our company, Slipshod Theatre, has always been about putting twists on history and this is our latest one! I’m lucky to have such an amazing team who share the initial vision and have managed to explore it and make this show really unique. We use nostalgic space anthems from David Bowie, Elton John and many more in addition to the character drama and comedy to explore the dizzying mindset of someone in the midst of fame and how they deal with alcohol, partying, sex and balancing that with being a human being and trying to stay in touch with your sense of reality.
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
I’ve been travelling in Eastern Europe a lot over the past year and one thing that struck me was the parallel between how we idolise astronauts like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in comparison to the reverence for Yuri Gagarin in ex-USSR countries. In particular when I was in Transnistria, which is a semi-recognised country very keen to hang on to their Soviet heritage, my guide was stopped by a local Russian-language TV crew who were doing a puff piece asking people which Superhero they would be if they could choose. His response was simply “Yuri Gagarin”.
After lots of research I came to look at the events of his life as he landed back on Earth and found there was a story with incredible twists and turns that I then adapted into a script. Really a lot of the work has come from the actors exploring the lives and motivations of the real people in the show. Discovering those emotions and their stories has been an amazing artistic process for all of us, something we haven’t done before. Particularly the work of our leading man Mike Dorey into becoming Yuri has been excellent and deeply researched. Maddy Ashman, our resident composer, has also been working to transfer the story and the atmosphere into some incredible interstellar music which is going to be performed with a live band.
TF: What are your plans for the Fringe, having been before are there any tips or musts you would offer to first-time performers?
We’re lucky to be doing what I believe is the ideal Fringe run with just over two weeks of performances. We’ll inevitably be meeting up with lots of friends we’ve made from the past, particularly The Shambles Improv group from York and the awesome team behind Ricky Riddlegang & the Riddlegang as well. The plan is lots of flyering, lots of meeting other performers, lots of having fun and seeing lots of shows. We try not to over-plan other than logistics in terms of getting up there, performing and getting back down again. The Fringe is such an artistic, fun venture and letting yourself just follow your nose and diving headfirst into the atmosphere is the key to getting the most out of it I feel.
In terms of advice for first-timers, the most important thing I’d say we’ve learnt over the past couple of years is getting your name out there on Twitter and Instagram as early as possible really helps. There’s an amazing, supportive community of performers online and it’s the best way to reach out to potential audience members who might be interested in what you have to offer. Word of mouth is always king and having an online presence massively boosts that.
And what are your future plans beyond Space Junk?
Well one of the things about our company is that we’re almost all students, so it’ll be back to the Uni hustle after the Fringe ends this year. I’m heading back out to Eastern Europe once we leave Edinburgh in August for a few weeks for some more research for another show that I’m co-writing with a close friend. We’ll see where that goes! Right now we’re all very much in the Space Junk headspace so it’s hard to tell precisely what the future holds!
You can see Space Junk at theSpace, Surgeons Hall from 2nd – 17th August (Not 11th) at 21:10. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com