Pioneer (4 stars)

This article is from 2014

1Pioneer =

Stunning space-age exploration drama goes to infinity and beyond in style

At first glance, the story of Pioneer would lend itself better to a blockbuster film; set in outer-space, under the Pacific Ocean, and on a deserted Siberian road, the reference points seem cinematic rather than theatrical, with visionary/bonkers director Terrence Malick acknowledged as an influence in the notes. This production by the curious directive company would appear to have ideas far beyond the standard fringe show; the surprise is that Pioneer reaches the parts that others shows don’t.

A complex, multi-strand narrative unfolds; Shari (Emily Lloyd-Saini) is organizing the second human mission to Mars; the first has vanished, and a reclusive billionaire is funding a second attempt. Having identified the relationships between the astronauts as a weakness, Shari has organized for a young Dutch couple to be used as test cases, but separating Imke (Flora Denman) from her sister Maartje (Catlin Ince) proves to have unexpected consequences that impact on aspiring cosmonauts Ivan (Stephen Bisland) and Alyosha (James Hardy). Shari’s plans turn out to be rather more devious that first expected, but do the ends justify the means when it comes to pioneering the outer reaches of space-travel?

Pioneer uses so many ingenious tricks to create a dense, imaginative narrative that it’s inevitable that a few fall flat; in general, director Jack Lowe, designer Celcilia Carey have created a lush, vivid and spectacular view of space, with miniature cameras, large moving sets and a big sound design to create the illusions required. But the performances are big too; Denman is a sympathetic heroine as the forlorn Imke, while Lloyd-Saini makes something involving of her conflicted boss. All in all, Pioneer is one of these productions which shouldn’t work, but does; it’s a show that goes to infinity, and beyond, in some style.

Zoo Southside, 662 6892, Until Aug 25. £12 (£10).


  • 4 stars

curious directive/ NNF/ Watford Palace Theatre/ Escalator East to Edinburgh In 2025 the first human mission to Mars disappeared without a trace. Years later a reclusive Indian billionaire named Mrs Singh is leading Ghara I, a new attempt. In Siberia, two Russian brothers drive a Lada Sputnik 1.3 in search of the birth of…