The play, “One Small Step”, enacted by British duo Oliver Millingham and Robin Hemmings took the audience on a delightful trip to the moon

How do you translate something written as a documentary on the space race that traces the events that led to man's first step on the moon into a highly entertaining, emotional rollercoaster with visual effects and graphic illustrations — hang on — employing just TWO actors, some toys and props lying around your house?

“One Small Step,” produced by the Oxford Playhouse and brought to India by the British Council and Evam, needs to be seen to be believed. It's easy to see why the rather simplistic production has been a huge success around the world.

The play originally written for the 40th anniversary of the moon landing is in the last leg of its world tour and aren't we glad Chennai, or at least those at the Chinmaya Heritage Centre on a rainy Thursday evening, got to see it!

It terms of form, this is something kids do with toys. Don't we remember making those silly noises to generate audio effects, as we ran around the house, manoeuvring toys around in air to stage elaborate stunt and action sequences? Stories that would probably make no sense whatsoever to anyone watching the child in action… but in the child's head, it's a full on motion picture that's being staged.

Imagination unleashed

Channelling exactly that power of imagination we all are capable of, two immensely gifted actors, Oliver Millingham and Robin Hemmings, took us into research labs, TV studios, space shuttles, confidential meetings and all the way to the moon, and made us all see that motion picture playing out in their heads.

With their incredible stage presence, creative use of props and mastery over accents, Robin and Oliver slipped from one speaking part to another, one mood to another, and changed gears from the serious to the comical, so smoothly and quickly, that it never felt that it was just the two of them doing all the roles of scientists, political leaders and astronauts from three different continents, with great detail, down to the date when it all happened.

Their comic timing and flair for physical comedy kept the laughs coming as their onstage antics faded out to audio-visual interludes seamlessly as the actors managed the lights themselves and made it part of the narrative. The highlight was the climax as the duo staged Neil Armstrong's moon landing with their fluid movements. “One Small Step” was a giant leap for theatre, as we have seen it in Chennai.

Directed by Toby Hulse, the play, written by David Hastings, was born out of a creative writing course and received extremely well at the British Council's Edinburgh showcase in 2009. Which is apparently where the founders of Evam first saw it and set their minds to bring it to India.

We are glad they did. It was quite a trip. To the moon and back.

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