Review: Space to Be, Oily Cart
4.0Overall Score

Space To Be is an at-home interactive experience for families with children who have a disability, particularly those with a sensory disability. From my perspective, this was a very interesting show to review as I have both a physical disability and brain damage from a stroke as a child. I think it is so great that shows like these are available as the representation is very important especially in the performance area.

So let’s get down to it. Space To Be is divided into 5 boxes which are sent to you, meant to be opened over 5 days. A journey through space and the cosmos, it creates fun characters ranging from Source Star, an adult; Hummm, your sensory child; and extra members of your family: Whoosh and Rumble.

Just before your boxes arrive you are treated to a sneak peek of what’s to come with a welcome box which gives the parent an opportunity to listen to an introduction video on YouTube or sent a message of what to expect. Included in the welcome box are a tea bag and a chocolate bar, and as you relax, Bea from Oily Cart introduces you to your characters.

Dropped off by courier, I get all boxes together and am at first a little surprised by the box sizes, especially box 5, although they do stack nicely. It is also very clear that if you run into any problems along your journey into space you can contact Bea and she is very happy to help.

Day 1

Eager to start I dive into Box 1 and the first thing I see is a very helpful instruction sheet. These come in every box and tell you what’s inside and what’s involved. In our first box, we meet the harp Lyra, she joins you in every box, as well as the guide Polaris, and a scent bag.

Day 1 involves Source Star putting on a pair of headphones and an eye mask. The idea is to sit back and listen to the track provided to first discover the closest reaches of space while you relax. The use of different voices and accents brings a feeling like you are reaching across the whole world. Polaris then invites you to open the box included and feel your way around for the star hidden inside without looking. You can also play with Lyra at this stage. This experience takes about 15 minutes.

So what are the good and the bad sides of day 1? The only negative I’d say to this experience is that you are specifically told not to take out all the items from the box when you open it, but this means you already have your eye mask and headphones on when it asks you to get the next item out the box. This breaks up the idea of being completely enveloped in the experience. It would probably be better to suggest laying each item out on the table and then you can reach for them when asked. The positives are that the relationship between the item representing your star and the sound around you is brilliant, really bringing in all your senses.

Day 2 

Day 2 is an experience for both Source Star and Hummm. This is definitely the most relaxing box which includes your instruction sheet, a pillow with a speaker in it, a blanket decorated with a sewn constellation and a scent bag. The idea is to for you to lie down together and for Source Star to help guide you through with Polaris and Lyra. The pillow speaker is easy to turn on using a button which controls the volume. Hummm lies while listening to the track as the sound bounces from each speaker to create an amazing space around you and Source Star traces the star pattern on your blanket. You are also invited to play Lyra to accompany the track. This box was perfect for just before bedtime to relax your child while still including all their senses. I wouldn’t say there are any downsides to this box but it does take 20 minutes.

Day 3

Day three is another perfect one for just before bedtime and involves SourceStar, Hummm and, if you have another family member, Whoosh. This box includes a little metal box that has a torch with reflective shiny paper attached, and your scent bag. Bringing your box and Lyra to a dark room, you pop your torch on your wrist and move the shiny material in front of it. There is a switch on the bottom of each box for your guide Polaris to lead you deeper into space and shows you through the constellations you create. I loved this experience as it creates a truly magical light show. The only negative I would say would be I didn’t feel there was that much use for Lyra in this as your hands are already taken up by the reflective sheet and light, this was also a harder experience for me as I only have use of one hand. But it was great creating shapes with the family.

Day 4 

For me, day 4 was definitely the highlight. This box involves all the characters (if available) and a shiny, green star shape attached to a box and a scent bag. Hummm sits on a chair or the sofa with both feet or hands, if preferred, on the box. While your other characters: Source Star, Whoosh and Rumble take different parts of the star and move around the space creating different shapes. Hummm can also have Lyra on their lap to play during the experience. Source Star turns on the box and the vibrations, and Polaris leads you deeper through space past a black hole making sure to keep you safe so you don’t fall in.

This experience was very fun and made you completely delve into the story.

Day 5

Your day five leads you to your biggest box. This one also involves a lot more set-up, with weights and connecting foam branches that create a little planetarium for yourself. You then pop a shiny fabric over the top and a lightbox underneath. Bringing Lyra in with you, listen to the music as Polaris leads you to the end of your journey. Although it suggests the whole family can get under the little world you have created, I found it hard on my own. I think it’s perfect for kids but might not even fit an adult and child. Also, my pets loved it. 

Overall this was a great experience bringing all your senses and really involving the whole family.  The Polaris instruction is at the beginning of each track which means that, if your child gets bored or tired they can easily return to the instruction and do the experience later. I would defiantly recommend this experience which builds well the narrative of space moving from ‘you and me’ to ‘us and them’, to the whole universe.

Space to Be is touring until August 2021. For more information and to book, visit Oily Cart online.