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TheatreQueen of MarsKen Longworth

EARTHLINGS: The cast (top centre clockwise): James Chapman, Lissy Shand, Amy Wilde, Jan Hunt, Carl Gregory, Emily Daly and Andrew Black.HOW would you react if a family member or friend was chosen to fly to Mars and join others in establishing a colony, with little prospect of returning to Earth? That is something Newcastle playwright John Wood explores in his new work, Queen of Mars, which will premiere at Theatre on Brunker in March.

Wood had the idea for the play when an international organisation called Mars One announced in 2015 that it had included seven young n adults, among them four women, in the final 100 candidates for a one-way journey to Mars. The team will be whittled down to 24 before the flight to Mars takes place in 2032.

Wood, who will direct the play, has workshopped the script in association with the actors in the rehearsal period. It offers a mix of drama and comedy as the central character, Alicia, who has dreamed of going into space since she was a child, waits nervously for news on whether she has been selected, and, after the trip to Mars has been confirmed, is given a surprise birthday party on the eve of her departure, even though her actual birthday is three months away.

John Wood notes that the partygoers have varying responses to Alicia’s inclusion in the team, with some believing the Mars venture won’t go ahead and others seeing it as a scam or joke.

“Some friends are jealous, but virtually no one is sure that she will go to Mars,” he said.

Alicia isn’t married, but she has had a long relationship with a man who is her age, so there are doubts as to whether she’ll be able to live without him for the rest of her life.

However, Amy Wilde, who plays Alicia, believes she will go. “She’s in a good place in her life and isn’t going through a crisis,” she said

Jan Hunt and Patrick O’Brien are Alicia’s parents, and Andrew Black, James Chapman, Emily Daly, Lissy Shand and Carl Gregory as friends and family members.

Amy Wilde admits that she has had Mars nightmares while rehearsing.

“I’ve dreamed, for example, about running out of oxygen on that planet,” she said.

However, she has also observed the passion of the seven n Mars finalists. “They have made videos explaining why they want to go, with some believing life on Earth isn’t sustainable and that living on Mars could lead to discoveries that will help to improve this planet’s situation.”

Queen of Mars opens at Theatre on Brunker, in St Stephen’s Church Hall, Adamstown, on March 10, and plays Friday and Saturday, until April 1. Patrons have a choice of dinner and show, at 7pm ($45), or show only at 8pm ($22; pensioner and student concessions $18). There will also be a show only matinee on Sunday, March 19, at 2pm.

Bookings: 4956 1263.

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