Monday 19 February 2024

The Moonwalkers - Review

Lightroom, London


Written by Tom Hanks and Christopher Riley
Directed by Nick Corrigan and Lysander Ashton

An image from The Moonwalkers

The latest immersive audio-visual experience to arrive in London is The Moonwalkers, playing at Lightroom at Kings Cross. For 50 minutes the history and scale and above all achievement of the Apollo rocket launches that sent 12 men to walk on the surface of the Moon is played out in a beautifully compiled narrative.

The event kicks off with 1962 footage of President John F Kennedy pledging to put a man on the Moon. Tom Hanks narrates a commentary that’s factual if a little airbrushed into cosmetic nicety. JFK’s words were stirring but the show makes no mention at all of the space race that pitted USA against USSR in the bid to be the first to reach the Moon.

Throughout, the immaculate sound and projections teach us a lot about the various launches (from 1969 to 1972) and include stunning photography taken from the various Moon visits. The scale and achievement of what was accomplished more than 50 years ago is made clear and there are frequent references to today's Artemis II project that hopes to return astronauts to the Moon’s surface in 2026.

For all its beauty however, The Moonwalkers is more about the Moon and Tom Hanks than it is about the men who actually walked the Moon's surface. While we learn a lot about Hanks’ chilldhood and his passionate interest in the Moon landings – and to be fair, Hanks has been a driving force behind the creation of this show - we learn very little about the 12 Moonwalkers themselves. An immersive analysis of what motivated one or more of those 12 explorers, offering perhaps a glimpse of what gave them the ‘right stuff’ to make the unimaginably brave decision to fly to the Moon (rather than Hank’s recollections of discovering weightlessness in his parents’ backyard paddling pool) would have been fascinating.

But Anne Nikitin’s soundtrack played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is gorgeous and Corrigan, Ashton and Andy Saunders’ work on restoring the images and clips to this 360-degree digital screening is stunning. Lie back on the cushions and lose yourself in outer space. The history is humbling.

Runs until 9th June 2024
Photo credit: Justin Sutcliffe

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