To Space

With her gleaming eyes, welcoming smile and excitedly-whispered Irish lilt, Niamh Shaw gives off the distinct impression she is confiding secrets.

And that Shaw is, secrets big and small – of the universe up above, and of the equally expansive universe within her.

Almost incongruously warm as she babbles her way through the cold terminology of laboratories and space, Shaw’s autobiographical slideshow presentation is the portrait of a woman pulled in two different directions at once – towards the theatre and towards the heavens.

In this Sarah Baxter-directed show, Shaw has found a way to fuse her two passions of space and acting at last, theatrically running us through the earnest dreamings of her childhood, and how she kept the flame burning on her journey to adulthood.

Via personal anecdotes set within a cosmic context, family photos, glimpses of her diary entries and relentless note taking, Shaw offers her audience the opportunity to stargaze into her soul.

For the most part brimming with wonder and facts and personality, at a certain point Shaw veers ever so slightly off her trajectory, leading to a wobbly landing that doesn’t quite do justice to the journey.

Nevertheless, if they do end up offering an Artist’s Residence on the International Space Station, there’s surely nobody better qualified.

★★★½