Natalie Songer’s Satellites was utterly Spellbinding

Natalie Songer’s extraordinarily ambitious and complex show took in the vastness of time and space, and yet did so by exploring the most intimate and touching of family stories. Taking inspiration from her family’s hazy, disconnected recollection of Tom and Cor Gehrel’s time in the Second World War, she weaved a compelling tale that neatly dovetailed the contrasting fortunes of the two siblings, while at the same time evoking broader emotional themes that must surely have resonated with everyone in her audience.

For eighty minutes, she held that audience utterly spellbound with the tale of two men that started the war in the same place, but went on to have two dramatically different experiences. Straightforwardly fascinating as a story in its own right, it proved a brilliantly effective exemplar of how easily our lives can take a turn for better or worse, and either way, how easily our life stories can fade away entirely. Along the way, we learned of Songer’s own fascination with space, and how this informed the investigation into her uncle’s involvement in the post war space program. At times, the performance teetered close to a meta show about itself, but she deftly avoided excessive introspection with healthy doses of self-deprecation and knowing humour.

Handsome staging from director Nicholas Barton-Wines, combined with excellent sound design from Calum Paterson, offered up a collage of diverting multi-media imagery, but at the heart of the show was Songer’s engaging and skilful story-telling. Her performance brought to mind the charm of Daniel Kitson combined with the eloquence of Spalding Gray, so for all the clutter and chaos on stage, and the pleasingly low-fi production values, it was Natalie Songer’s personality that shone through. This was assuredly one of the finest productions at the Corn Hall for a very long time.