Theatrical Science

Jun 25 2021 | By More

Science Festival kicks off this weekend

Just in time for the school summer holidays, and with Covid restrictions still in place, Edinburgh’s brilliant International Science Festival comes online, running from Saturday 26 June to Sunday 11 July.

Sadly, there isn’t a huge amount of theatre in this year’s festival, even though recent years have dared to steam into that area where art can begin to understand not just science, but the consequences of what scientific investigation can unearth.

Digital magicians Cy and Bug of the Big Data Show. Pic: Science Fest.

There is, however, a small amount of online theatre. With the help of the Science Fest’s Magda Paduch, we’ve picked out a selection of events from the 220 on offer which might tingle the theatre-goer’s taste buds – or at least delight their offspring!

The Big Data Show, from Edinburgh’s Civic Digits Theatre Company and written by Clare Duffy with Rupert Goodwins, couldn’t be more on the money if you want to look at one of consequences and moral ambiguities.

The interactive show, which has been reimagined for online, explore the story of teenage hacker Rupert Goodwins, who demonstrated to BBC news in 1984 how he and his friends could access Prince Philip’s email account, sending emails as Prince Philip.

There is less moral ambiguity to the theme for Ruxandra Cantir and Sarah Rose Graber’s Two in a Barrel, a clown-inspired, physical theatre performance for young audiences about co-existing in an environment with limited resources, which gets its world premiere at the festival.

Science, of course, reports on the world around. Art interprets it and gives it context, so it feels right that Covid and Me, The Monologues is a part of the festival. Not quite verbatim theatre, the playwrights have used conversations with members of different communities as their inspiration.

There’s also The Mirror Trap, an intriguing work by Simon Watt which uses technology to explore alienation, a possibly very awful and niche eco-comedy night and, tarrah!, A Flea Circus! Of course, younger family members will want to explore Fartology – but it fits with growing tradition of scientists who use a show format to bring their discipline to a wider audience.

Full Science Festival Listings on their website:

Listing Highlights

Covid and Me – The Monologues
Sat 26 Jun—Sun 11 Jul
On-demand (
Ages 14+)
Theatre of Debate presents a series of filmed monologues written by dramatists, including Sarah DanielsOladipo Agboluaje and Sudha Bhuchar. They tell of how people from different communities have been affected by the COVID-19 treatment, vaccination trials and fake news swirling around social media. The series was inspired by a series of creative workshops in which members of different communities shared their lived experiences with the playwrights. Tickets and details here.

CreateWorks: Engineering Drama
Sat 26 Jun—Sun 11 Jul
On-demand (
Ages 12+)
A series of 14 powerful audio plays that explore how engineering is changing the world around us, created by Braw Fox Theatre’s dynamic creative team of Amy McKenzie and Jo Rush, who, alongside playwright Dave Fargnoli partnered with engineers from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering to explore the ways theatre can make scientific research more accessible and engaging to the public. The dramas have been written by engineers from diverse fields, connecting their specialist research to the lives that it directly impacts. Tickets and details here.

The Big Data Show Online
Wed 7 Jul
Single performance: 2pm (65 mins). (Ages 11+)
Who knows what about you online? What are you agreeing to when downloading an app? Who has access to your secrets? How do you stay safe and sane in a digital age where friendships are often counted in likes and expressed in emojis?
Digital magicians Cy and Bug are here to help in this technically ground-breaking experience using performance, gaming and digital magic. They tell the story of teenage hacker Rupert Goodwins, who demonstrated to BBC news in 1984 how he and his friends could access Prince Philip’s email account, sending emails as Prince Philip. His friends were arrested and the case instigated new cybercrime legislation, leaving Rupert with lifelong anxiety about online security. Tickets and details here.

Two in a Barrel
Sun 11 -Tue 13 July
YouTube 10.30am (30 mins) available on demand for 48 hours. (Ages 5+)
Best friends – Riri and Moku – are confined to a barrel sitting on top of an island of rubbish in the ocean. They love finding treasures in the vast waste that surrounds them and they enjoy making up their own world of adventure and imagination. Every little discarded thing can be transformed into a magical trinket that starts a fun game. But being in tight quarters means they face challenges… Tickets and details here.

Ruxandra Cantir and Sarah Rose Graber in Two in a Barrel. Pic: Science Fest

StrongWomen Science Show
Sat 26 Jun—Sun 28 Jun
Online 10.30am (30mins) Available for 48hours. (Ages 5+)
Ever wanted to know how you balance a chair on your chin, whether or not you can juggle liquid, or how circus performers eat fire? StrongWomen Aoife and Maria reveal the scientific secrets behind their astounding tricks. In a fun, lively and fast-paced family circus performance, learn how jugglers, acrobats and hula hoop artists use science to create their amazing acts. When science meets circus, anything’s possible!  Tickets and details here.

The Mirror Trap
Wed 30 Jun
Zoom performance 7.30pm (45 mins). (Ages 14+)
A short headphone play/experience/installation/horror story about psychology and quantum physics. Paul Gato has been through a lot. He has been signed off from the university again, sending colleagues e-mails filled with ramblings and Feynman diagrams. He said, “There is nothing more dangerous than being trapped between mirrors.” Paul might be losing his mind, but he might still be right. Dare you take part in his final experiment? Post show discussion with show creator, Simon Watt, physicist Jennifer Smillie and psychologist Kate Storrs.  Tickets and details here.

ECOmedy Night
Wed 7 Jul
One-off: 8pm (60mins) (Ages 16+)
“Join our comedians as they translate their lives as natural scientists into weird and wonderful performances” in this one-of-a-kind comedy show hosted by the award-winning musical comedian and radio presenter Emer Maguire. With sell out shows at the Edinburgh Fringe under her belt, Emer knows just how to get a comedy night started. Features Dani Rabaiotti, Hana AyoobZara Gladman and Khalil Thirlaway.  Tickets and details here.

Science Shows

The Flea Circus – The Smallest Show on Earth
Tue 29 Jun
Oboe-off: 7.30pm (45mins) (Ages 12+)
The idea of a flea circus is a definitely a head-scratcher but Dr Tim Cockerill is here to persuade you that, until recently, this was 100% a genuine spectacle, made up of live fleas pulling chariots, riding tricycles and even fighting duels with perfectly crafted miniature swords. Find out all about the life and nature of these insect star-performers, how the Flea Circus Professors fed their fleas, and which household appliance spelled the demise of the Flea Circus in the 1950s.  Tickets and details here.

Fart-ology Science Show
Wed 30 June
Online 10.30am (40mins) Available for 24hours. (Ages 5+).
Learn how to understand complex biochemistry and physics thanks to massive bottoms, vast whoopee cushions, explosions, mini-motorbikes and the world’s loudest fart machine. Possibly the most outrageous science show in the world, hosted by BBC Gastronaut Stefan Gates and his long-suffering daughter Poppy. This hilarious and thoroughly educational show accompanies Stef’s book Fartology.  Tickets and details here.

That’s Non-Sense Science Show
Thu 1 July
Online: 10.30am (30mins) Available for 24hours. (Ages 6+)
Ever wondered why food tastes funny when you have a cold? Or what happens when you get dizzy? Buckle up for a whirlwind tour through the senses you’re familiar with – and some you might have never heard of – but which use every day without knowing it with Science Communicator Ginny Smith.  Tickets and details here.

Handmade: A Scientist’s Search for Meaning Through Making with Dr Anna Ploszajski
Thu 1 – Sun 11 July
Online: 1pm (40mins) Then available on-demand. (Ages 12+)
The story of materials through making and doing. Author and materials scientist Dr Anna Ploszajski uses a mixture of memoir, storytelling, stand-up comedy and scientific explanations, to take you on a journey through the different materials of science and craft. It’s the story of a young scientist trying to find true meaning in her science and its – and her – place in the world.  Tickets and details here.

Covid and Me – the monologues. Pic: Science Fest.

Deep Ocean Lab Science Show
Sat 3 July
10.30am (30mins). Available for 12 hours. (Ages 5+).
What happens as you dive deeper and deeper into the dark ocean? YouTuber and BBC TV & Radio presenter Greg Foot tells the story of his scientific adventure into the deep. He’ll show you the high-tech submersibles that took him down a crazy 1000ft into the Twilight Zone. He’ll explain the importance of our oceans and – thanks to his work with the Blue Planet II team – uncover the effect we’re having on them.  Tickets and details here.

Incredible Insects Science Show
Mon 5 Jul—Tue 6 July
Online 10.30am (40mins) Available for 24hours. (Ages 5+).
There are loads of live insects to play with in this entomophagy (insect-eating) show hosted by BBC Gastronaut Stefan Gates and his long-suffering daughter Poppy. You’ll discover what makes bugs so amazing, why they can jump so high, why you’ve been eating them all your life, and why eating more of them could save the planet.  Tickets and details here.

Mastering Memory Science Show
Wed 8-Thurs 9 July
Online: 10.30am (30mins) Available for 24hours. (Ages 6+).
Join Ginny Smith to explore what happens in the brain when we learn and store memories, as networks of connections are created and strengthened all across the brain. Using the latest neuroscience research, we will discuss how these connections form and change, and why this means we shouldn’t always trust everything we remember.  Tickets and details here.

The Science of Sweets Science Show
Thu 8 Jul—Fri 9 July
10.30am (40mins) Available for 24hours. (Ages 5+).
It’s Stefan Gates and daughter Poppy (who is still long-suffering) for a Wonka-esque, snack-based science show packed with facts about the chemistry of sweets, the engineering of chocolate fountains, the biology of flatulence and the quantum mechanics of glowing spaghetti. There are loads of demos to can try at home, and a few you really can’t!  Tickets and details here.

Future of Food Science Show
Sat 10 July
Online 10.30am (30mins) Available for 12 hours. (Ages 5+).
By the year 2050 there will be almost 10 billion people living on our planet. With less space to grow food, less water to grow it with, and more concern about its footprint, what will we all be eating? YouTuber, Podcaster and BBC TV & Radio presenter Greg Foot looks at the cutting-edge science and tech tackling these problems head-on – and plans a ‘menu of the future’. Tickets and details here.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.