Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, made his pioneering solo flight on 12 April 1961. Last Dream (On Earth) uses words, imagery and live music to recreate his experiences of countdown, takeoff, weightlessness, and fiery but safe return.
It’s a spectacular soundscape, and each audience member hears it immersively and intimately through their own individual headphones. But in painful contrast with Gagarin’s triumphant tale, a second story is also told– the desperate journey of refugees trying to reach Spain across the sea from Morocco in a child’s dinghy.
The two stories of peril, bravery, persistence and adversity intermingle and interlink creatively, and we have to ask: could I do this? What would it take to make me risk everything? And how are people changed by such experiences?
Even before their sea journey starts, the refugees in this story have already travelled thousands of miles, been subjected to indignities and uncertainties, and had to bargain, plead and pay.
Little wonder that in Britain, studies show higher rates of depression and anxiety among refugees compared to the national population, with those at highest risk being children, and women who have experienced abuse on their journey.
Figures show that of all people who migrate, asylum-seekers are the most likely to have multiple traumas. Experts have called for more support for those in the asylum system, but the intense politicisation of the issue continues to dog decision-making.
Astronauts, by contrast with refugees, are pampered travellers, rigorously trained for their journeys into such a risky environment. But the psychological impact of living in space is a very topical issue. While Yuri Gagarin spent just 108 minutes on the first spaceflight, a journey to Mars at current speeds would take nine months, one way.
A critical factor in maintaining mental health en route will be discovering how to improve astronauts’ sleep, while light and dark cycles disrupt their natural circadian rhythms.
And could there be genetic impacts on the human body from spaceflight? NASA hopes to answer that question through studying Scott Kelly, a veteran of a year-long space mission, and his identical twin brother, Mark. (RM)
Last Dream (On Earth) ran at Assembly Hall until August 28th - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/last-dream-on-earth
First Orbit, a film featuring audio and imagery of Yuri Gagarin and his mission: http://www.firstorbit.org/watch-the-film
Refugee and asylum seeker health issues: http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/health-of-migrants-in-the-uk-what-do-we-know/
Psychological wellbeing of refugees and asylum seekers: http://isp.sagepub.com/content/57/2/107.abstract
Refugee council facts on asylum: http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/policy_research/the_truth_about_asylum/facts_about_asylum_-_page_5
Medical monitoring on the International Space Station: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1025.html
Articles about Scott Kelly and his year-long space mission: http://www.nasa.gov/1ym/articles