Prior to our first R&D week we visited RALSpace where they specialise in making scientific instruments to go on rockets, satellites and the space station. Here we met Chris, one of the scientists working at RAL, who would be our point of contact for the duration of the project.
The aim of this venture is to make science accessible to the general public and to raise awareness of the Harwell Campus and the amazing work they do there.
So our first challenge was to make the science accessible to us. We ain’t none of us scientists. A lot of this first week was taken up with research. However, we did not want to get stuck on our laptops the whole time and were aware that too much time sat around trying to intellectualise everything can be a dampener on actually making decent theatre. Although, that sounds frightfully unscientific! In between research sessions we would improvise – either individually, in pairs or threes – around what we had learnt. These improvisations then showed us further where the holes in our knowledge were. And they were sizeable. Huge, gaping holes of ignorance. Black holes, if you will.
So what we were looking for was how to frame the science onstage. We either needed a story, some characters or a concept. Another thing to think about was interesting ways to stage the information we were finding. What forms could be effective and exciting? A lot of ideas were thrown around and a few we were particularly fond of, but most of them were impossible to try in the rehearsal room with just the four of us. We put these ideas aside for the time being.
Throughout the week we became more and more specific in our research as we found the topics that most interested us and lend themselves well to theatre. This had a direct effect on our improvisations as we began to see what this piece could be.
On our final day we had a go at improvising storyboards for the piece. During the week we were continually scribbling down and sketching story, character and staging ideas on little bits of paper, which gradually filled up one of the walls in the rehearsal room. For this exercise we would take it in turns to pick and choose from any of these bits of paper, order them as we wanted and improvise a story around that. These could be anything. The idea was to just to see what happened. Fleur however decided to blow us all away by improvising a pretty cohesive and fully-formed story that won us all over.
I won’t give too much away at this point, but that was where we arrived at the end of week one. A blog and video on week two is soon to come… Meanwhile here is a vid of week one…