Starchitects : A Cosmic Adventure

"Starchitects" is a story about five children who dream of reaching the moon from their bedroom. In this briskly paced adventure, running at only 55 minutes (a perfect length), our heroes use everyday items such as cardboard boxes to create a steam train and even a rollercoaster in an opening that sets up its premise excellently. They decide to fly to the moon by creating a spaceship. This journey takes us to the stars, a volcanic cave, and even a giant green monster!

It is a show that presents theatre in all its ingenuity to a young audience: the idea that the extraordinary can be conjured from the ordinary. The question is, did this reach the stars?

Delivered by the dance company Motionhouse, "Starchitects" manages to defy gravity by producing family entertainment for old and young alike. In the suitably relaxed performance that I witnessed, the children were entranced by the physical comedy and rapport among its talented ensemble, while the adults were marveling at the spectacle of it all.

The epic journey that unfolds has several moments that provide the wow factor. The standout moments involve the first time we see the Rocketship, which involves clever use of cardboard boxes and interactive projections by Barrett Hodgson and Logela Multimedia. We have seen a lot of shows opt for video design rather than a traditional set, but I believe "Starchitects" gets it right by making them feel tactile. A simple moment of one of our heroes pulling down the blinds through this use only makes the world feel more believable.

The story is simple yet has a strong pace to it, with many different fun scenarios (an encounter with a green slinky monster produced many "he's behind you" reactions). However, the director, Kevin Finnan, is not afraid to keep things quiet and ask the audience to take in the visuals. This is apparent in the flying scenes and the appearance of the moon fairies, which are depicted through graceful ballet sequences. You know you're onto a winner when you can hear a pin drop in the audience.

Despite all the technical wizardry, the reason the show succeeds is down to the technical skill and commitment of the cast that form this talented company. In the performance I saw, Alex De La Bastide, Dylan Davies, Olly Bell, Beth Pattison, and Llewelyn Brown all demonstrated a great sense of discipline and control in their movement and interacted well with the younger members of the audience.

Despite being a 28-year-old critic who navigated a grey and miserable London in February, "Starchitects: A Cosmic Adventure" truly transported me to the moon and back, and made me feel like a kid again!

Houston, Starchitects is go for launch! 

This show was reviewed on the 17th February 2024 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London.  For more details on Motionhouse visit: Motionhouse | Pushing Dance-Circus To Its Limits

Review written by Alex Farley

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Photo credit: Dan Tucker

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