How – and why – might we engage with biomedical science in the creation of new performance material? Chimera PI Alex leads a workshop for the Young Vic’s Directors network, addressing this and other questions prompted by the vibrancy of current practice in this field (notably in projects funded by the Wellcome Trust). Alex sets the scene through examples ranging from the performance arm of ‘bioart’ (Helen Pynor, Kira O’Reilly, Orlan) to TV series such as ‘House‘ and ‘24 Hours in A&E’, and including past and future Young Vic productions: Sound and Fury’s Going Dark, Told by an Idiot’s My Perfect Mind and Peter Brook’s The Valley of Astonishment.
Then Adam Kirkham and Bex Law perform extracts of Bloodlines exemplifying different representational approaches to the ‘science’ of Leukaemia treatment. In our most conventional and literal scene, where a doctor breaks bad news to a patient and outlines treatment protocol, selected aspects of the science are conveyed through spoken word. In contrast, a later solo dance employs physical rather than spoken language, with the ‘science’ embedded within choreographic devices.
Our 14 workshop participants also have an opportunity to develop and test ideas of their own, responding to a range of visual and textual sources. We are awed by their playful and imaginative approaches and struck by the bravery with which they engage with deliberately unyielding source material.
Feedback from participants
“After yesterday’s workshop I’ve realised that I really need to work on such a subject that interests me in every possible way” (cosmetic surgeon turned performance-maker)
“I was often struck – when I was starting out as a performer – by what seemed to be an anti-intellectual bias in theatre; it’s very exciting now to discover that it’s possible to work with a creative team who use that intellectual curiosity to unlock work that is creative and profound.” (director)