Reviews for THE SPACEMAN

TIMEOUT Children Critics' Choice

"A hugely imaginative piece of theatre that changes the way kids think" - The Metro

"A must for Budding Astronauts" - The Evening Standard


In Cologne, August 2007
Life support for an Alien "Spaceman" : Great Theatre for Children in the Comedia

"Science can work in theatre - that was prooved before...

Now there is a play for children. But Mark Down and Nick Barnes play is also great fun for adults, because of it's eye-twinkling attitude. C.Fillers discovered this jewel in England and brought it to Ömmes and Oimel. Charles Ripley is Professor Blastoff ...

T he magical thing about this story is the way it is told. Ripley acts with full energy and knows how to sell a joke. Not only the text is very charming, but also the little illustrations, that he draws while telling the story, work in a magical way. You don't ask whether this is story-telling or theatre. Gestures join together with images and words to one strong stream of story-telling. What you see there, is a new way of theatre. The fact that love for details such as music and light in combination with Ripleys inspired performance enrich the whole show, goes without saying.

But the main reason for the great success might be the ironic way of presenting popular clichés of love, science and science fiction, that lets the audience be part of the show all the time. Superb.
Ripley plays a German and an English version, that can be understood with basic English knowledge."


THE METRO, Oct 2003
Bud the Spaceman is blasting off in search of aliens, but he has to navigate his spacecraft into the unknown, so you soon find out how he operates the controls, and what happens when he presses the button marked "FUN". The story is told by two pieces of chalk called Harry and Betty, who bring the whole thing to life on a blackboard. A hugely imaginative piece of theatre that changes the way kids think about chalk and gives blackboards a new lease of life beyond the classroom. Damian Kelleher


It’s always a risk that theatre for young people is not pitched at the right age level for the young person in your life, but after wolfing down a pizza with my 10 year-old son, Billy, we rushed to the West Yorkshire Playhouse to see Spaceman, advertised as a show suitable for 5yrs plus.

I needn’t have worried; the show was absolutely delightful. Very simply done, the humour verging on Monty Python, which did not go unnoticed by my son, and he was equally tickled by the very young children’s spontaneous outbursts that peppered the show throughout.

The show was staged as a lecture and Mark Down, in role as the Professor, proceeded to take the audience through both a fantastical adventure of a small boy believing in aliens, as well as weaving in scientific facts. This was all depicted through story and chalking on a number of small black boards. Simple and effective, the comic story shone through and, as Billy said, ‘I liked the way that he made the black board tell the story and the way that the rocket flew out of it, how he flipped them around and his funny conversation with his chalk … oh and I liked my pizza’.
On leaving the auditorium we were able to meet ‘The Professor’ and chalk on the walls, enabling us to dwell a little longer in the magic he had created.

A great show, with a wide humour base that tickled adults as well as the children – of all ages. I particularly liked the fact that it started at 6.30, which meant that it wasn’t a late night, either. Julia Calver ***


Dine Direct, June 2006
What a great show for the youngsters that the West Yorkshire Playhouse has served up for half term! I only wish that my science lessons had been like this when I was a youngster.

Blast off in search of aliens! Learn how to operate the controls of a jungle space rocket and find out what happens when you press the "fun" button in this cosmic family show.

Do you believe in Space Monsters? Bud does. But no one else believes in them, not even his Mum and Dad, or his best friend Tommy, not even his girlfriend Jane. Bud wants to become a spaceman, so he can fly into space and prove Space Monsters exist. But how do you become a spaceman? And where do you look for Space Monsters? And if you find a Space Monster, what will it be like?

This performance is very much like an hour of “Jackanory” with the story excellently being told by Mark Down from the Blind Summit Theatre Company who appeared on stage dressed in a white laboratory coat as the professor. Armed with several blackboards about two feet square he told the tale of Bud using various illustrations about both the story and also space travel in general. At the same time he was extremely amusing and had the youngsters in fits of laughter.

This is Blind Summit's first show specifically for children. Developed at BAC, it has been delighting audiences in London and the UK for over a year. It was the first children's show to be invited to be part of This Way Up and was a hit of Take Off 2004. On the strength of this, I sincerely hope that they produce more shows for youngsters as the audience on the first evening when I attended were spellbound and gave Mark well deserved lengthy applause at the end of the fifty five minutes that the show runs for. John Burland


Reviews Gate
Innovative theatre styles are for young audiences too.

Both Blind Summit theatre company and the Battersea Arts Centre-inspired touring package This Way Up have previously produced work for adult audiences. But the former's contribution to the latter's 2004 programme is this one-man lecture-demonstration storytelling piece. Let me explain.

Mark Down's white-coated scientist offers a space story, using the tried and trusted method of chalk and talk, drawing characters, spheres and other outlines on a series of boards, with a couple of sticks of talking chalk named Harry and Betty. OK, there's nothing magic Down does both their voices.

Art meets Science as his drawings take us through the story of an alien who first appears fuzzily on an old TV then meets our young hero who in a way only a child's imagination could conceive - becomes an instant rocket-propelled space traveller.

Science fiction, with wittily-produced drawings (a space-map turning into our alien, a rocket-bearing blackboard whooshing round the stage in Down's hands), is interspersed with scientific facts about space, the Big Bang and galaxies. There's a reminder, too, of how many chocolate bars bear heavenly-body names and a rather sudden ending.

The only limitation lies in the show's science elements being presented through factual presentation, rather than exploration of scientific methods of enquiry.

Down has a fine manner, brisk, unpatronising but friendly. He responds to comments from the audience, rather than ignoring them, bringing them calmly round to the path of his story.

A Saturday morning audience on a university-campus theatre may not be typical, but the attention of the young people listening seemed complete, and a good number enthusiastically took up the offer of helping with space drawings in the foyer afterwards. Good signs both.
Timothy Ramsden, 27 Mar 2004


The Guardian, Family, 5 things to do at Half Term, June 2006
The half-term offering from the hugely respected West Yorkshire Playhouse is The Spaceman, a 55-minute show for children aged six and up. The hero is Bud, who believes in space monsters but has his work cut out convincing anyone else. He decides to become an astronaut so he can fly into space and prove that space monsters really do exist. But how do you become an astronaut; and even if you do, where would you find a space monster? There are colouring and drawing activities each day in the theatre foyer and on Saturday there's a workshop (11.30am-1pm) when children can dress up as astronauts, design their own space rockets and have their faces painted like space monsters.


Yorkshire Evening Post - 2 JUNE 2006
If parents have run out of ideas to entertain youngsters as the half term holiday nears its end, they could always head to the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds to see Spaceman. The tale of Bud the spaceman and his search for space monsters is suitable for anyone aged five and above. There will be coloring and drawing activities, and tomorrow, a family fun Day between 11.30am and 1pm, when children can dress up as astronauts, design rockets or have their face painted like a gruesome space monster.