Unravelling physics fusing science with art
By James Dacey
“A mash-up of laboratory theatre and laboratory science”. This is how a group of New York thespians are describing their attempt to take theoretical physics to the stage.
Quantum Poetics is seeking to transform recent advances in theoretical physics and neuroscience into performance art, and it’s the latest project of NYC’s Stolen Chair Theatre Company.
A cast of 12, including clowns, stuntmen and musicians will create a “gravity and genre-defying world, which marvels at the complexity and beauty of how the universe’s massive and minuscule forces allow humans to build meaning”.
When I caught up with Liza Green, the theatre company’s spokesperson, she said they hope the performance will “expose audiences to what is beautiful and exciting about mathematical exploration and scientific thought.”
Admitting that the directors still have a lot of homework to do, she says they are determined to avoid “fake science” or “pop math”, citing the film Pi as an example of a production that, whilst name-checking maths and science, doesn’t really engage with academic content.
Of course, this is not the first time that playwrights have looked to theoretical physics for creative inspiration. British writer Tom Stoppard incorporated ideas from thermodynamics and chaos theory in his highly acclaimed play Arcadia (1993), which looked at the life and times of Lord Byron.
In Copenhagen (1998), another British dramatist Michael Frayn built an entire play around the famous 1941 conversation between Neils Bohr and his former protégé Werner Heisenberg in the Nazi-occupied Danish capital.
Earlier this year, the Ransom Theatre Company in Northern Ireland produced the Gentlemen’s Tea Drinking Society — a black comedy centred four alcoholic graduates from Cambridge one of whom has secretly discovered the Higgs boson.
Quantum Poetics will open its pilot season on November 22, which will build towards a full stage production scheduled for the Autumn of 2010.