A THEATRE production is using a giant inflatable “doughnut” to explore space, time and the human condition. The huge blow-up structure, which spans five metres, is the centrepiece of Inflatable Space by Thaddeus Phillips, a theatre-maker from Colorado.

Phillips and New York actor Ean Sheehy (pictured, from left) use dialogue, physical theatre and images projected onto the massive doughnut to illustrate theories about black holes and relativity and to tell the story of Nasa’s Voyager programme.

Launched in 1977 with less computing power than a smartphone, the Voyager 1 and 2 probes have been beaming information about the solar system back to Earth for over 40 years.

Tears were shed at Nasa in 2012 when Voyager 1 became the first object made by Earthlings to enter interstellar space.

The news of Voyager 2 doing the same last year rekindled an interest in the historic probes which dates back to Phillips’ childhood. On a shelf in his parents’ home was a copy of Murmurs Of Earth, a book about the programme by Carl Sagan.

The cosmologist, his then-wife Linda Salzman and astrophysicist Frank Drake worked on the golden records each probe carries to this day.

The records are intended for any intelligent life forms who work out how to play them (each is fitted with a stylus), and each feature animal calls, sounds of nature, greetings in numerous languages, music, images of terrestrial life and a pulsar map indicating the location of our sun.

Inflatable Space turns between at least four time periods: 1977, the present day, 2027 – when scientists think we’ll lose contact with the probes, and 500 billion years into the future.

Phillips had initially thought of a shorter time scale for the piece but reconsidered after a telephone conversation with Steve Howard, Nasa Voyager mission controller.

Sheehy plays a version of Howard in Inflatable Space. “He told me about the meetings they have every Thursday where they discuss what to do with the power that’s left,” says Phillips.

“I had said to Steve I thought Voyager would be still around in five billion years and he said: ‘Why not make it 500 billion? These things will be around forever!’”

Until August 26 (not 21), Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh, 4.15pm, £11 to £14. Tel: 0131 623 3030. www.assemblyfestival.com