Review: An Evening with Chris Hadfield

Hadfield recounts his early beginnings and the science fiction stories of his youth that would eventually become science fact.

Hadfield’s story is one of ambition and success, as the man who became the first Canadian to spacewalk and captain the International Space Station. Yet despite this, his attitude to his own incredible achievements is ultimately humility, with plenty of praise for those who helped make his dreams come true.

Beginning with recollections of his childhood spent watching William Shatner - a fellow Canadian, he points out - captain the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek series, Hadfield describes how he began to realise that astronauts and cosmonauts actually existed; that there were real men and women out there making spaceflight a genuine reality. We then hear of his progression through the armed forces and into NASA, where he was selected as an astronaut trainee out of over 5,000 applicants.

Hadfield's fans queue up outside Bristol's Hippodrome.

We learn what it is like to lift off from Earth in a space shuttle, how weightlessness really feels, that spacewalks are gruelling, damaging and often bloody affairs that push the human body to its limits, and the effects zero gravity has not just on the physical body, but on our own perception of the physical world. Hadfield recounts discovering a leak on the International Space Station by conversing with his colleague cosmonaut Pawel Winogradow in Russian, and the subsequent 48 hours in which they had to prepare for and execute a spacewalk to save both the space station and their own lives.

Into the show Hadfield injects enough of his own humour and personality to make this more than simply a retelling of his life story. It is a show that asks the entire audience to reflect upon their own existence, and what it is possible to achieve. This was very much the attitude of Eugene Cernan, the Apollo 10 and 17 astronaut who passed away recently, and to whom Hadfield pays tribute during the show. It seems a common trait of those astronauts who actually made it into space, and understandably so. Clearly, achieving something as seemingly impossible as orbiting Earth in a floating laboratory is enough to redefine the limits of anyone’s ambitions. This certainly comes across during the course of the evening, and it feels ultimately as though Hadfield has brought back to Earth a little bit of this cosmic inspiration and shared it with the audience. We too will leave feeling that, as Gene Cernan once put it: “The limit to our reach is our own complacency.”

Along with astronaut and fighter pilot, Hadfield can also add 'folk singer' to his Curiculum Vitae.

During his last journey onboard the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield was able to add ‘YouTube star’ to his list of achievements, as a video of his famous performance of David Bowie’s Space Oddity in Earth orbit went viral. And, with his acoustic guitar sitting prominently upright in its stand at the front of the stage for the course of the evening, it seems only a matter of time before we are treated to a solo performance. Hadfield closes the evening with a medley of the song I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing), which he co-wrote with fellow Canadians Barenaked Ladies, and the aforementioned Bowie classic. But not before a Q&A session in which the audience is given free reign to quiz a man who has had arguably one of the most interesting lives of anyone who has walked the Earth (or indeed 400km above it).

This is a show not just for fans of spaceflight or even astronomy. Nor is it solely a show for young men and women considering  a career as an astronaut. Hadfield’s inspirational message contains something all of us - no matter how young or old - can take away, and his warm humility and genuine sense of humour make this message all the easier to truly believe in.

Chris Hadfield is bringing his one-man show to Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on 20 January, Dublin’s BGE Theatre on 22 January and London’s New Wimbledon Theatre on 23 January. For more information, click here.


 

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