Research Context

Chimera responds to a recent ‘scientific turn’ in contemporary performance practice exemplified by internationally successful productions such as Complicite’s Mnemonic (1999) and A Disappearing Number (2007) and, more recently, Katie Mitchell and Stephen Emmott’s Ten Billion and Lucy Prebble’s The Effect.  It examines methodologies employed in the creation of  what Shepherd-Barr calls the ‘alternative science play’ (2006) particularly those involving the participation of scientists in roles that go beyond what Dowell and Weitkamp (2011) call the ‘deficit model’ (in which the scientist is an adviser, plugging the artists’ knowledge gaps). And it explores the dramaturgical strategies and modes of spectatorship that emerge as a result of such ‘integrated’ models of collaboration, for example considering how the disciplinary diversity within the rehearsal room might evoke experiential encounters with scientific ideas.  Chimera thereby considers how a longer tradition of science plays has been inflected by contemporary practices such as interdisciplinary devising, new media practices (particularly in relation to digital sound technologies) and postdramatic theatre. And it seeks to contribute to existing knowledge in these areas and in related fields such as new dramaturgy, immersive performance and new music theatre.

The Investigator-led practice-as-research strand provides a particular focus on two areas. The first is on intersections between performance and medical science. This is an established area of contemporary practice, in terms of both applied practices (for example in medical training, healthcare, health awareness and patient-support)  and commercial theatrical practice. The Wellcome Trust has been particularly instrumental in both of these areas in the UK.  There are also philosophical reasons why medical science is a particularly rich area for collaboration with performance practitioners. As Sian Ede points out, both medical scientists and artists share an obsession with the human body and ‘the mystery of death’ (2010: 147, see also Pollier-Green, Van de Velde & Pollier (eds) 2007).

The second area of focus is the employment of sound within science-based performances. This is exemplified in work such as Melanie Wilson’s Auto-biographer and Sound and Fury’s Going Dark which both invite the audience’s subjective identification with medical conditions through immersive sound environments.  The Network also supports work in the field of data sonification in that digital audio technology is employed in the systemized translation of biological processes to sound design.  The field of data sonification has found resurgence with recent developments in digital audio technology, compositional models and in its theoretical paradigms (e.g. Brazil & Fernström 2011, Walker & Nees 2011, Hermann & Hunt 2005), and this Network supports projects which aim to explore this newly-found potential.


Dowell, Ellen & Emma Weitkamp ‘An Exploration of the Collaborative Processes of Making Theatre Inspired by Science’ in Public Understanding of Science XX(X) 2011 p.1-11

Ede, Sian Art + Science 2010 Taurus

Brazil & Fernström 2011 Navigation of Data in Hermann, T, Hunt, A and Neuhoff, J (eds.) The Sonification Handbook. Logos Publishing House. 2011 pp.509-523

T. Hermann & A. Hunt, An introduction to interactive sonification, IEEE Multimedia, vol. 12 no. 2, 20–24, IEEE., 2005.

Pollier-Green, Pascale, Ann Van de Velde & Chantal Pollier Confronting Mortality with Art and Science VUB Press, Brussels 2008

Shepherd-Barr, Kirsten Science on Stage: From Doctor Faustus to Copenhagen Princeton University Press 2006

Walker, B. & Nees, M. ‘Theory of Sonification’ in Hermann, T, Hunt, A and Neuhoff, J (eds.) The Sonification Handbook. Logos Publishing House. 2011 pp.9-39

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