Navigators in the Playground of Possibility

Feature in Issue 7-2 | Summer 1995

A six-day meeting of Science and Art.

Two scientists presented twenty theatre-makers with scientific theories from the fields of Chaos and Cosmology. Having enlarged on the structure of the theories as well as their content, the participants were put into four groups to embark on a five-day experiment focusing on the expression of the structures and content through theatre. The project concluded with a presentation of the process, a synopsis of the scientists’ presentation, a showing of the created pieces, and a documentation report.

There is a story in a theory, and creating or concocting stories is the way we make theatre. A story is relayed and understood by virtue of its structure and the receiver can be affected by a story – so if we change the structure perhaps the effects will be different.

The project aimed to identify, analyse and work intuitively with alternative, challenging, and in this case scientific structures, in order to create hybrids with the structures by which theatre commonly communicates. Several groups began to explore the possibility of a hybrid form which combined both narrative and non-linearity, improvisation and learned text. In so doing we were attempting to create theatrical ideas which were more influenced by, and a part of, contemporary thinking and investigation.

‘The exchange of ideas was lively in both directions. Chaos theorists like the LSE’s Paul Redfern and cosmologists like Pedro Ferratra from Imperial College are already searching for philosophical as well as empirical solutions. Their work offers up a new vocabulary and terminology irresistible to an artists 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. The aim wasn’t to convey the theories’ content but to draw on their structures to make theatre. “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 equations.’ – Clare Bayley, The Independent, February 1995.

Ruth Ben-Tovim, Artistic Director, Louder than Words. Navigators in the Playground of Possibility was a collaboration between The Arts Catalyst and Louder than Words.

Referenced Artists

This article in the magazine

Issue 7-2
p. 6