Stella, a story of women, their men and astronomy

Stella, a story of women, their men and astronomy

Fri 24 April 2015

Acclaimed drama | Acclaimed theatre company

“undeniable emotional clout”
Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

“powerful poetic momentum” 
Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman

"The play grabs the attention of the audience in the opening scene – an argument between Jessica and Bill – and does not let go until the emotion charged ending"
The Public Reviews

“This tiny company punches way above its weight”
The Public Review

William Herschel discovered Uranus. So what did his sister do?

She discovered eight comets, numerous nebulae, some double stars and was the first women to be offered honorary membership of the Royal Astronomical Society. 

Science has historically been a man’s domain; yet look closely at the archive and you’ll find a silent army of intelligent, dedicated women, researching and discovering.

This is a story of Time, Space, Curiosity and Passion: two women, Jessica Bell, a radio astronomer from the C21st and Caroline Herschel, comet sweeper from the C18th, look up at the same night sky and find themselves colliding in their search for understanding. 

Caroline longs for a family and home of her own; Jess contemplates the prospect of losing both.

Each woman can precisely map her position in the universe, yet she struggles to find her place in the world.

Take the Space who brought Hanging Hooke and Dolce Via return to Unity Theatre

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Actors: Sian Webber, Chris Barnes, Siobhán Nicholas
Direction: The Company with Polly Irvin
Design: Gus Munro
Written by Siobhán Nicholas 

Take the Space
Take the Space, an artist led company, was founded in 2005. STELLA, their fourth show, focuses on the real life story of Caroline Herschel (1750 to 1848) who discovered eight comets and eleven nebulae and received the Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal; a genius who with her brother, William, could be said to have laid the foundations of modern astronomy. But Caroline also passionately longed for a family and home of her own. The play, through Jessica Bell, our fictional modern astronomer, positions this {possibly everlasting} dilemma up against Humanity’s consuming need to explore the enormity of the Universe and thereby understand the origin of Life itself. 

Playwright Siobhán Nicholas says “I began thinking about the modern female astronomer with so much technology at her fingertips, witnessing the wonders of the universe expanding before her eyes – and all the while sustaining a very earth-based juggling act of loved ones and work. Is she in a better position now than her past counterparts? Do brilliant female minds have to renounce “love” in order to discover the wonders of the universe? Even Marie Curie, perhaps the most famous female scientist from the past, said “I have frequently been questioned, especially by women, of how I could reconcile family life with a scientific career. Well, it has not been easy.” 

The Royal Society in 2012 asked Siobhán to blog about this subject for International Women’s day. You can read what she said here

STELLA has already played The Rose in Kingston, Greenwich Theatre London, Stephen Joseph Theatre and The Traverse, Edinburgh. This second tour for 2015 includes the Ustinov, Bath Theatre Royal and The Minerva Chichester Festival Theatre.


“The reclamation of women's history is admirable, there is much to enjoy in the clever entwining of theatre and science, and the final moments in which the characters gaze into space and the future has undeniable emotional clout”. The Guardian, Lyn Gardner

“the audience choked on the bared emotions and the wonderment of people seeing deep space for the first time”. The Guardian, John Vidal

“And that final intensity is reflected both in Gus Monro’s haunting design of star maps and scattered starlight, and in Siobhan Nicholas’s thoughtful and poignant performance as Caroline; the woman who gives up her own life to help her brother in his work” The Scotsman, Joyce Mcmillan

“The staging was masterly .........Combined with the classic star maps behind, the effect was - ravishing.........a great production” The Fringe Review

“a gripping, complex narrative that is beautifully acted by the cast of three....A gem” Oxford Daily Info

“an elegant, accomplished piece of theatre that showed the people at the end of the telescope to be as fascinating and complex as the universe they gaze on”. 
The Argus, Brighton

show details

Dates: Fri 24 Apr
Times: 8pm
Running time: TBC
Prices: £12 (£10 conc)
Charges: 50p card transaction | £1 postage
Venue: Unity One

coming soon:

The Princess and The Pea