SCIENCE AT THE ADELAIDE FRINGE
In these days of science denial and fundamentalism in many different guises, it is so important that scientific thought is adequately and accurately represented in popular culture.
There was a healthy number of science based shows in this year’s Adelaide Fringe spanning the genres of comedy, magic, visual art, drama, musical theatre and children’s events. Inspiring South Australia, a science communication organisation, produced a specifically science-related programme. Here are four shows from that programme.
Foremost is John Hinton’s Scientrilogy: three interactive theatre productions based on the lives and science of Marie Curie (the Element in the Room), Albert Einstein Relativitively Speaking and Charles Darwin (Origin of Species …), of which I saw the first two. Billed as “peer-reviewed musical theatre” with a scientific review board to ensure accuracy, these informed, educated and entertained in equal measure and were highly deserving of a Fringe Award for theatre. Follow the links above to read my reviews.
Next up, Kevin Quantum: Anti-Gravity was a science-based magic show performed by a Scottish comedian-PhD physics candidate. With gravitation as a general theme, Kevin performed illusions, levitations and improbable balancing acts illustrating the force of nature we are most familiar with but in highly unfamiliar ways. The slick production was slightly undone by a trick on a nervy volunteer which did not work. Hey ho. Not all experiments yield the results one would like. That’s science for you. You can’t argue with the universe.
Finally, Nikola and I was a dramatic mash-up of psychaedelia, esoterica, the life and science of Nikola Tesla (the man who gave us AC power transmission), conspiracy theories and the real life of writer-actor David Geddes. That this one-man show was performed in the actor’s maternal home – actually we learned later, in his bedroom transformed into a studio theatre- added to the surreality. With a virtuoso four character performance: Nikola, the actor as self, a spirit guide and a shaman, it was almost possible for a moment to believe in the Great Pyramids as electrical transmission devices or in the notoriously conspiratorial “Philadelphia Experiment” (you’ll have to look that one up yourself). The deepest moments however were reserved for the actor’s self musing on the nature and limitations of linear time. This show was truly mind-bending and without any drugs whatsoever. For a moment, we felt like we glimpsed something universally profound without consciously knowing what it was. Later in the week, at the Fringe Club, we bumped into the actor – forever to be known as Nik- and further explored the limits of science, knowledge (which is what science is), time, space, art, life, and beer.
Science and art. There’s not enough of it.