Sheffield theatre company Footprint bring their acclaimed show Signals back to home city

A play that looks at scientists searching for life in outer space has been on its own smaller orbit from Sheffield, travelling around the country and back.

Sunday, 20th October 2019, 1:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 5:00 pm
Eve Cowley and Immie Davies in Signals, a comedy that follows two radio astronomers and their search for alien life
Eve Cowley and Immie Davies in Signals, a comedy that follows two radio astronomers and their search for alien life

Signals was created by a group of University of Sheffield students who set up Footprint Theatre and took their show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, where it was spotted by Trent Burton.

He is a co-director of the Cosmic Shambles Network, which makes science-based entertainment.

The team work with prominent scientists, comedians and performers on a variety of live shows, podcasts, documentaries and events.

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Footprint and cosmic Shambles worked together on developing the show, which has now been to summer festivals and is currently on a national tour.

The final stop on the tour, the Crucible Studio, is where a first ‘scratch’ version of the show was performed, said Trent, bringing it full circle.

Trent said: “The basic story is it’s two radio astronomers who have been stuck in this radio telescope for an undisclosed amount of time, monitoring signals from outer space, looking for signs of alien life.

“They get signals that are all sorts of stuff and they are looking for something that isn’t just a solar flare.

“The story is really about their relationship and being stuck in a basement, listening for something that might be out there, for years on end and what that does to you as a person.

“It asks that question, do you really want to find something and if you do, what the hell does that mean?

“There would be much bigger consequences if you do find something.”

The two scientists are played by Eve Cowley and Immie Davies.

Trent said the way the story is told is what attracted him to work with Footprint: “The show itself is a human story set in a science environment.

“I think that often, when you see something that is like a play or a comedy science show, it feels like the science is crowbarred in.

“Whereas, this comes from a human place first and the science informs the story.”

W hen the show is performed at festivals, a scientist who is an expert in that field will do a talk for the audience after the show.

He said that one astronomer who spoke at Cheltenham Science Festival took a look at the set and was impressed at its accuracy, as well as recognising much of what took place in the play.

He said that a lot of science is unglamorous, nothing like the way that the work is portrayed in Hollywood.

“For most working scientists, 90 per cent of their job is looking at data that comes from some instrument.

“They love doing it because of the hope of that extra bit of knowledge or discovery at the end. Most of it’s grunt work with data.”

One of Cosmic Shambles Network’s aims is to break down the false barriers that exist between art and science, said Trent.

"It’s a different way of trying to understand the world. The ultimate goal at the end is better understanding.

“Footprint made a play and Chris Lee sent up a satellite. It’s the same thing, they come at it from different angles.”

Signals is at the Crucible Studio, Sheffield on October 28. Book online at