Susan Gray

Infinity in a Cigar Box
Space and Worldbuilding in Science Fiction Theatre
12th March @ 6.00pm


Space is not natural, or abstract, or literally “there” but is relational, lived, and lively. Recent arguments in geography have rejected the idea that space is an inert backdrop or container for action, nothing more than the canvas onto which life is painted, or the stage on which it is acted out[…]we might now suggest that space and society produce each other, though there are of course many different ways of conceptualising society.(1)

I will consider the idea of relational space from the perspectives of anthropologists Tim Ingold, Mike Pearson and geographer Doreen Massey to explore how these concepts lend to performance theorist Richard Schecner’s concept of restored behaviour and theatre historian Julia Walker’s theory of the oscillating dynamic to calibrate our understandings between what we envisage on stage and our own understandings . I argue that all of these devices are important for generating this context for Science Fiction to be intelligibly staged to a theatre audience.

I believe that the action that takes place on the stage – the interactions between characters and the staged environment they inhabit – is representative of the imaged world as a whole. The characters and their interactions are our gateway into their environment and by extension, their universe. Space is actualised through this network of interactions rather than simply existing for its own sake, not simply what we see on the stage.We therefore do not need to see special effects to imagine a world, nor does theatre need to emulate Film or TV to create such abstract landscapes.

The staging example I will use from my praxis is Terra Firma – a full length apocalyptic SF play that had a staged reading at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden. How can we articulate behaviours, understandings and interactions in a world split between utopia and dystopia; from people who have changed from victors to victims in a world unlike our own? What do we need to present and what do we need to discard to create this environment?

(1) James Kneale in “Space” The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction (Routledge, Oxon, 2009) pp423 – 432, p423.

Brief Bio
Susan Gray is a 2nd year PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is an SF playwright, with her works Newshound, A Christmas Gift and an extract of her full length play Cuckoos and Chrysalides having been staged in various theatres in London. Her full length SF play Terra Firma had a staged reading at the Etcetera Theatre in London, Camden. She writes and performs SF monologues and has given talks on SF Theatre, Utopian Literature and the works of Adam Roberts. See:


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