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Friday, June 14, 2024

Studio 58 joins the space race with Kosmic Mambo

Studio 58 opens its new season with the non-verbal movement piece, Kosmic Mambo, inspired by the 200-year-old text of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and set during the nearly 50-year-old space race between the United States and Russia.

“I was originally inspired to put a non-verbal show together that was based on popular music and classic rock and then when I had the thought of Rime, a penny dropped and I started sketching the transposition of The Rime to the space age, and then so many things just fell into place,” explains the show’s creator David Mackay, who will also co-direct with Studio 58 acting and physical theatre instructor, Wendy Gorling.

With Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem and an imaginary trip to Mars as a jumping-off point, Mackay says there is a cinematic quality that has taken shape as Kosmic Mambo has developed, a quality he thinks will appeal to theatre audiences.

“With our ability to move the action from the inside of the space ship to the outside in space, there is a definite science fiction quality,” says Mackay. “That blend of sci-fi and theatre is really beginning to radiate in rehearsal and it is very exciting and completely engaging to watch.”

That mash-up of sci-fi, cinema and theatre no doubt comes in part from the research that Gorling says has been undertaken by the entire team.

“All of the designers, directors and cast have been going onto the internet and looking at videos and movies,” says Gorling. “We’ve watched 2001: A Space Odyssey and we also found this wonderful short Russian documentary about a woman cosmonaut who was crying and how it got heavily panned at the time because people felt the woman shouldn’t be crying.”

More than the visual inspirations, though, because of the non-verbal nature of the show, music will also play an important role.  “Our sound designer Brian Linds has a very eclectic taste, and while there are tunes that people will definitely recognize from the 1968 to 1972 timeframe, we are also leaning a lot towards the B-sides as well,” says MacKay.

“Plus some Russian folk music too,” adds Gorling.

While not a new concept for Studio 58 to tackle a non-verbal piece like Kosmic Mambo, it has been almost 20 years now since the school tackled a similar project with The Company. But the students (and audience) are in good hands, with Gorling one of the co-creators of perhaps Vancouver’s most famous non-verbal theatre piece, The Overcoat.  But even with that pedigree, Gorling says it is really the students who have embraced the idea of Kosmic Mambo and are bringing the vision to life.

“We’ve given them a lot of challenges,” says Gorling. “At times we simply gave them little bits of choreography and sent them away and we were amazed at what they came back with.”

And, of course, as the students of Langara’s Studio 58 prepare to blast off to Mars with Kosmic Mambo, one can’t help but appreciate the coincidence that NASA has only just recently announced it is looking towards the Red Planet for its own manned trip.

Kosmic Mambo opens the 49th season of Studio 58 (100 West 49th Ave) from October 2 – 19.  Tickets are available online at Tickets Tonight or by calling 604.684.2787 or visit for more information.

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