600 People (4 stars)

Alex Kelly's mind-expanding performance-lecture

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600 People

credit: Richard Kenworthy

For Third Angel's Alexander Kelly, the NASA's Voyager Programme has long been a source of fascination. Two space probes dispatched to the furthest reaches of our solar system serve as ambassadors for humankind, they carry collected materials intended to represent our experience of life on Earth.

The collection itself contains enough material for a show of its own. Over the course of several mind-expanding meetings with astrophysicist Dr. Simon Goodwin, Kelly's performance-lecture 600 People, directed by Rachael Walton, delves as deeper, as much into the search for intelligent extra-terrestrial life as the wondrous complexity, intricacy, and variety of life on Earth.

600 People revels in the simplicity of its approach, using little more than Daniel Fletcher's crisp neon illustrations, a handful of colourful orbs, and Kelly's gentle storytelling prowess. From a description of the dolphin's capacity for murder, to capuchin monkeys practicing banana-based capitalism, Kelly shares the material with evident joy, drawing his audience in offering a wry, poetic, and often humorous outlook on some very big questions.

Despite the volume of factual material, 600 People continues to orbit a central question about who we are as a species, what our place may be in the universe, and what we might become in order to maintain our survival.

In charting the rise of homo sapiens from a tribe of 600 in East Africa to the dominant force on the planet and looking to a world of cyborg sharks, and mind-controlled prosthesis, Kelly shares his story with brio and a hunger for knowledge.

Most tellingly, in both the plight of early homo sapiens, and in the most fervent searchers for extra-terrestrial life we find a uniting trait: an ingrained capacity for illusion, mythology, and storytelling. Perhaps it is in this spirit that 600 People, in a gentle, methodical way, presents a fitting and human challenge to anthropocentrism and a love letter to the wonder of the universe.

Northern Stage at Summerhall (Venue 26), run ended.

600 People

  • 4 stars

Third Angel 'We step out of our solar system, into the universe, seeking only peace and friendship…' So says the message from the human race on the Voyager spacecraft. But is there, y'know, anybody out there? Alex talked to an astrophysicist to find out. This is what he learned: Stellar wobble. The mirror test. Fermi’s…

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