Einstein on the boards

Can quantum physics be staged? Clare Bayley sees the appliance of theatrical science

Do changing perceptions of how the universe is shaped affect our relationship to the world? Does the purported death of the grande narrative, render conventional story-telling forms meaningless to contemporary audiences? These were the ambitious q uestions addressed by "Navigators in the Playground of Possibility", a week of workshops at Jackson's Lane Community Centre, north London, involving scientists and theatre artists. Organised by Arts Catalyst and Louder than Words Productions, it was hope d each discipline might shed light on the other.

The exchange of ideas was lively in both directions. Chaos theorists like the LSE's Paul Redfern and cosmologists like Pedro Ferraira from Imperial College are already searching for philosophical answers as well as purely empirical solutions. And their work offers up a new vocabulary of ideas and terminology irresistible to an artist's imagination: a world of "strange attractors" and "absent presences"; notions of straight lines in curved space and fault-lines called "strings" whizzing around the universe. "We have strongly defined ideas about what a play is - exposition, development, resolution - but that doesn't reflect how we live our lives," Ruth Ben-Tovim of Louder than Words explains. "Young audiences who are flocking to films and raves aren't going to the theatre, and maybe it isn't just what theatre is saying that's the problem, but how it's saying it. The aim wasn't to convey the theories' content, but to draw on their structures to make theatre."

While Tom Stoppard's interest in chaos theory produced the structurally conventional Arcadia, the "Navigators" prompted an investigation into non-linear narratives. This resulted in a "fractal theatre", consisting of seemingly irregular fluctuations which in fact conform to mathematical (or choreographed) equations, something which companies like the Wooster Group in the US and Forced Entertainment here have long experimented with.

One of the main by-products of the project was a greater insight into theatre-making processes. "A lot of the ways of working, like improvisation, seem to be completely unstructured," Ben-Tovim says, "but if you look at it from a different perspective, you see the initial conditions are very clearly set, allowing free experimentation within a controlled situation."

The work inspired by the scientists deliberately left content out of the calculations. But can structures really be explored separately to the stories they carry? Ben-Tovim concedes the point: "By the end of the week it became clear that there is a desire for narrative. We are just beginning to explore the possibility of a hybrid form which combines both narrative and non-linearity."

These are the rudimentary stages of the experiment, but if a butterfly's wing beating on the other side of the world can cause hurricanes here, who knows what effects these workshops will have on future generations of theatre artists.

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015