Harry Buxton is boss of a business empire of fashion houses, travel agents, casinos, brothels and media. His latest wheeze: a hotel on the Moon, complete with honeymoon apartments.
Buxton's arch-rival to capture the pockets of the super-rich is Paul Minkowski, who has made his fortune in the international arms trade.
Can Buxton keep the Moon free from a man with such a sordid reputation? And can Louise Lagrange, Administrator of the International Moon Station, keep them both away and preserve the sanctity of the Moon for pure government science?
The two tycoons are competing for the Luna Prize, which, like the X-Prize before it, offers a cash payout to the first private entrepreneur who can, in the case of the Luna Prize, fly two passengers to the Moon and back in a reusable private spacecraft.
So far as I know, my new stage play is the first one to be set entirely on the Moon. In addition to conflicts over science and business, there are emotional entanglements and crises. Despite all the human failings on display, the play ends with hope for the future.
Technical notes: there are ten acting roles, five male and five female. Two are substantial roles, three are medium-sized, while the other five are relatively brief.
Like my 2001 offering, "No Lifeline But Numbers", the play is based on one set which, once built, does not require scene changes. But a live two-way video and audio system is required, which would make a full production technically challenging.
No attempt is made to simulate lunar gravity (one-sixth of what we have on Earth). But the play makes an obvious claim to be one of the first to be performed on the Moon, when lunar development allows this to happen, perhaps by the 2040s.
Running time is probably close to the conventional 1 hr for first half, 45 min for second half. This will be more carefully defined in spring 2005, when a rehearsed reading with local actors in Oxford is planned.
Some recent plays have adopted a curiously negative approach towards space exploration, making it out to be an absurd or pointless activity, or one suitable only as supplying a metaphor for problems in human communication. I hope to set space in its proper place as the defining adventure of our age.
A neatly bound reading copy of the script is available for any prospective director who would like to see it.
Stephen Ashworth, Oxford, UK
1 January 2005 / 36th Apollo Anniversary Year
To Space Age index page