Two unnamed, female radio astronomers (or data analysts, depending on who you ask), in a basement, Somewhere. They’re living moment to moment. They’re waiting for something, anything to tell them that they’re not alone in this universe.
They drink a lot of tea. They eat a lot of biscuits. They quibble with each other over paperwork and in the next breath they have these sweeping conversations about loneliness and contentment and what it means to be human. It could be over several years’ worth of night shifts, or it could just be over a single night. You’re never totally sure. Time goes stretchy when you deal with the cosmos.
(It’s a bit like Beckett, if Beckett didn’t piss me off)
They sit there and they wait and they fill the void with their voices. There’s something gently radical about having two women, two scientists, sit in a room together and talk about nothing in particular. It has this slow, winding power that never hits over the head at any particular point but just kind of creeps up on you as you file out of the Pleasance Cellar. There’s something to be said there about meaninglessness actually signifying a whole lot. It feels like an exhale.
More tea, more paperwork, more Jaffa cakes.
One of them thinks she’s found something. It might be nothing, but how can you be sure?
The dialogue can sometimes edge towards the overly expositional which is more annoying than anything because it feels so unnecessary – the chemistry between Eve Cowley and Immie Davies is so easy and established and charming that you don’t need the science jargon. It yanks you at the back of the neck like a fishhook, dragging you out of the basement for a brief second so the light hits the back of your eyes and you have to close them, rub, and readjust.
Occasionally, they’ll read out the fortune-cookie-type messages on their tea bags to each other. They’ll laugh a little. One of them is fascinated by a man who has held his arm up in the air for forty years. They want some sort of higher meaning and they can’t rely on the soundwaves they monitor and monitor and monitor. They can’t really rely on anything except each other. And humans are a bit rubbish too, anyway.
They wait some more. And some more. And something nearly happens but then it doesn’t.
What does time look like? It’s something like a circle, I think.
Time to start over.
Two unnamed, female radio astronomers in a basement, Somewhere.
Signals is on at Pleasance Courtyard until 27th August 2018. Click here for more details.