The title Captain Ko and the Planet of Rice in all its kooky glory may have you envisioning barmy Mighty Boosh-style spectacles of all things random, off-the-wall and altogether rather trippy. And to be honest, you would be partly right. Aliens waltzing with grannies, the discovery of a teapot on a space exploration and a starring role for the humble rice grain are all part and parcel of this innovative thingamajig of theatre that I am unsure whether to call a play, comedy, moving picture, experiment or something else altogether. Yet, beyond this wacky exterior, Captain Ko and the Planet of Rice is a touching and ingeniously clever portrait of the complexities and collapse of time, memory and space.
A triptych of three separate stories that neatly morph together the scientific and the artistic, Dancing Brick show us that in Captain Ko this is the world, life and time – but not as we know it. In the first chapter, Captain Ko and Admiral Al Stark in their powder blue space suits enact what must surely be the dream vision of any 1970s Star Wars zealot kid who even today harbours a secret obsession with aliens and space rockets.
The gaudy cinematic future then seamlessly gives way to the nostalgically dusty past as Valentina Ceschi begins the second silent story. In an entrancing twenty minute mime, an elderly woman brews a cup of tea to pass the day in an act that quickly becomes ritual. Acquiring greater weirdness and confusion as the pots and plates stack up in this tea-drinking Endgame, this was a genuinely moving scene that explored the repetition, trappings and dream-like distance of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
This lapse of time then melts into the final part of the triptych, where cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev (played by Thomas Eccleshare) experiences the surreal nature of what we call our own time and place when he returns from a space expedition to find the Soviet regime has collapsed. Merging the political with the intangibly temporal, this is perhaps the most dramatic and understandable of the three stories, the others of which can sometimes move towards an almost Joyceian level of confusion and misunderstanding.
Yet Captain Ko and the Planet of Rice, while understandably alienating to some, is nonetheless a poetic and beautiful work that taps into one of the most sensitive and unpredictable of human faculties – time and memory – in a way that is challenging, unusual and wonderfully inspiring. This is a pioneering work for our age that is a real privilege to witness.
*****- 5/5 stars
Captain and Ko and the Planet of Rice is at Underbelly until August 26 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information and tickets see the Edinburgh Fringe website.