Friday 13th & Saturday 14th February
TAKE THE SPACE in association with Greenwich Theatre and TOM – the old market presents
by Siobhan Nicholas
Ustinov Studio @ Theatre Royal Bath
Take the Space returns to the Ustinov Studio with their new play, STELLA, a story of time, space, curiosity and passion. Set in Bath, real-life 18th century astronomer Caroline Herschel and her modern day fictional counterpart, Jessica Bell, are looking at the same night sky, hundreds of years apart and find themselves colliding in their search for understanding. Caroline’s famous brother William discovered Uranus, but what did his sister really do? Science has historically been a man’s domain, yet look closely at the archive and you’ll see a silent army of intelligent, dedicated women researching and discovering.
Stella, a play about women, their men and astronomy, visits Bath as part of a national tour from the company whose previous visits to the Ustinov have included Hanging Hooke and Sam & I. The play focusses on the real life story of Caroline Herschel, who discovered eight comets and eleven nebulae and received the Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal. Most of this was achieved while working alongside her brother William, in Bath, having moved from their home in Hannover, Germany. The two of them could be said to have laid the foundations for modern astronomy, yet Caroline also passionately longed for a family and a home of her own, at a time when female scientists were viewed with suspicion rather than respect.
“The audience choked on the bared emotions and the wonderment of people seeing deep space for the first time” Guardian
The cast of Stella includes Sian Webber, well known as Ritchie Scott, the Mitchell family’s legal representative in EastEnders, as well as roles in Silent Witness, Trial and Retribution, Above Suspicion and Bliss. Chris Barnes played Finch in Hornblower, and has appeared in the films Les Miserables, Frankenstein, Amazing Grace and Much Ado About Nothing. Siobhán Nicholas’ film and TV credits includeLittle Dorrit, Neverland, Shadow of the Noose and Cracker.
Playwright Siobhán Nicholas says “I became interested in astronomy when I stumbled across a quote from an astrophysicist called Jocelyn Bell Burnell: “We are all made of star stuff”. Those beautiful simple words inspired me to find out more. Jocelyn discovered the Pulsar Star, an achievement that should have earned her the Nobel Prize. An amazing woman! Following this slight, instead of wallowing in bitterness, she has spent her life nurturing young astrophysicists and encouraging women into science. I began thinking about the modern female astronomer with so much technology at her fingertips, witnessing the wonders of the universe expanding before her eyes – and all the while sustaining a very earth-based juggling act of loved ones and work. Is she in a better position now than her past counterparts? Do brilliant female minds have to renounce “love” in order to discover the wonders of the universe? Even Marie Curie, perhaps the most famous female scientist from the past, said “I have frequently been questioned, especially by women, of how I could reconcile family life with a scientific career. Well, it has not been easy.”
STELLA is at the Ustinov Studio on Friday 13th & Saturday 14th February. Tickets are on sale now from the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844, or online at www.theatreroyal.org.uk/ustinov