Surprising and emotional, ‘Chaika: First Woman in Space’ is the story of Valentina Tereshkova, a poor Russian girl who ascends to the stars. Well performed and relying solely on spoken word and tiny lightbulbs, this minimalist show is a great example of compelling storytelling.
The show describes how a young Russian girl from a weaver family, with a passion for parachuting, rose through the ranks and was eventually selected to represent her country in the Cold War Space Race. It is a genuinely fascinating chain of events that engages the audience with its simplistic, yet effective storytelling technique of splitting Valentina’s solo narration between the entire cast; it implies that Chaika, her dreams and her triumphs, are in all of us. The use of tiny torches to create the landscape of the stars is particularly effective, and demonstrates how impactful even a barebones stage can be when the writing and delivery is strong, and trusted to be strong to carry the passing hour without it dragging.
Additionally, it is a politically charged, but relatively light, story that has got me obsessed with Valentina’s life and her situation. I’ve been thinking about this show for days now, wondering about the ways in which she was manipulated and developed into the perfect propaganda piece in the larger, dangerous game between global superpowers, wondering what happened to her next, wondering the extent to which certain suspicious aspects of her flight were potentially deliberate. I do wish that the show went on the discuss the implied political puppeteering that was going on behind the scenes of the adventure, but the overall delivery is still satisfying.
Concise and impressive, ‘Chaika: First Woman in Space’ is an intriguing story of success and science that will definitely get you thinking – a must see.
Chaika: First Woman In Space runs until the 24th of August – buy tickets here.