Entertainment & Arts

Royal Court sets controls for play set on Pluto

Pluto Image copyright NASA
Image caption Pluto was demoted from a planet to a dwarf planet in 2006

A space drama set on Pluto is among the new plays in the Royal Court's 60th anniversary season in 2016.

Alistair McDowall's play, X, tells the story of the crew of a lone research base on the dwarf planet who have lost contact with Earth.

The London venue's artistic director Vicky Featherstone, who will direct the play, admitted that science fiction was "notoriously difficult" to stage.

"It plays with the ideas of all those space station films," she said.

"It's about what it's like if we were trapped in space with nothing out there and how would we communicate."

She promised there would be "no bungee ropes" that would simulate zero gravity when the play begins its run at the Royal Court's Jerwood Theatre in March.

It's believed to be the first time a play set in space has been staged at the Sloane Square venue, although earlier in her career Featherstone directed David Greig's play, The Cosmonaut's Last Message... which features two Soviet cosmonauts stranded in Earth's orbit.

Image caption Artistic director Vicky Featherstone said the 60th anniversary season featured 'the very best in writing for theatre'

X will be set "entirely in space", Featherstone said. "It's hard to put plays in genres, it's a play that is in a science fiction world but I wouldn't like to say it's a science fiction play."

The Royal Court's 60th anniversary programme - dubbed Sixty Years New - will kick off in January with a new Caryl Churchill play, Escaped Alone.

Featherstone said it features four women aged in their late 60s and 70s "talking over a cup of tea".

She said the play, which will be directed by James Macdonald, goes "from the domestic to the epic" and there were "loads of thoughts" on casting.

Churchill's previous work for the Royal Court Theatre includes Love and Information; Top Girls and Cloud Nine and recent revivals of her plays include The Skriker (Royal Exchange) and Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (National).

Other plays in the Royal Court season include:

  • Ophelia's Zimmer, in partnership with Schaubuhne Berlin, which explores Hamlet from a new perspective and will be performed in German.
  • Unreachable, a new play by Anthony Neilson, about a film director on an obsessive quest to capture a perfect light.
  • Suzan-Lori Parks returns with a new production of her plays Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1,2,and 3).
  • South African playwright Mongiwekhaya's debut play I See You, which will tour to Johannesburg after its UK run.

The full programme is on the Royal Court website.

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