The National Student Drama Festival is such a potent Petri dish for young companies; it’s galvanising to see so many recent participants continuing to produce exciting, innovative work.
Footprint Theatre earned plaudits at NSDF 2016 with Daniel, and it is building on that success with Signals, a off-kilter comedy about the search for extra-terrestrial life.
Two astronomers sit at one desk, opposite each other, a machine and a tangle of wires between them. They’re waiting, listening for a signal from another world. And while they wait, they chat. They play a trivia game. They bicker about biscuits. They argue over a mouse. They philosophise about the eternity of space.
Short scenes slip over one another. There’s a really attractive, easy naturalism to the play, and to Eve Cowley and Immie Davies’ performances. It’s gently funny, too, the humour arising from the juxtaposition of office mundanity and the never-ending cosmos – here are two scientists, at the edge of human experience, with nothing to do but discuss Jaffa Cakes.
There’s not much tension, even when alien contact eventually rears its head, and the bleak notes of poignancy could be savoured more, but this is good work nonetheless. Modest, but with just a hint of magic.