There are some promising events in store for science-on-stage in 2015 as new works premiere and established pieces are revived.
The Royal Shakespeare Company will open its winter season in Stratford-Upon-Avon with a new work by Tom Morton-Smith about the physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Depicting work on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos in the 1940s, Oppenheimer will preview from 15th January and then run in the Swan Theatre until the 7th March.
It’s 21 years since Tom Stoppard’s classic Arcadia premiered at the National Theatre in London but it’s only a few weeks until the NT produce new work by Stoppard with a scientific theme. The Hard Problemwill be the last production to be directed by outgoing NT director Nicholas Hytner. It promises to be an intriguing production to finish on, as Stoppard tackles brain science and consciousness in his first new play since 2006. The sold out production will be staged in the newly refurbished Dorfman (formally Cottesloe) Theatre and will run from the 21st January to April 2015.
Also in the new year, English Touring Theatre will take a production of Stoppard’s Arcadia directed by Blanche McIntyre around various venues until April, beginning at the Theatre Royal Brighton on 20th January 2015.
With Southampton Nuffied Theatre’s production of Caryl Churchill’s A Number (with stage design by Tom Scutt) to transfer to The Young Vic in London in later 2015 and the Broadway premiere of Nick Paynes’s Constellations, there’s plenty in store for science in theatres in 2015.
The year 2013 has been a good one for the science-in-theatre genre with numerous performances of established classics staged throughout the world as well as new plays appearing on the scene.
The year began with the final few performances of Lucy Prebble’s The Effect at The National Theatre in London. The complexities of love amid a neuropharmacology clinical trial attracted both sell-out audiences and a clutch of awards and nominations for the Headlong/NT team.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s new version of Brecht’s A Life of Galileo in the Swan Theatre brought audiences to Stratford-Upon-Avon to enjoy a lively and musical production with set-design by Tom Scutt.
Several new plays portraying the history of science opened throughout the year. Operation Epsilon by Alan Brody premiered in Boston USA, dealing with the post-war detention of German nuclear scientists and offering an intriguing postscript to Michael Frayn’s mighty Copenhagen. STELLA, a new play by Sibohan Nicholas featuring portrayals of 18th Century astronomers Caroline and William Herschel, opened in Brighton in May and went on to tour small venues in the UK and Ireland throughout the summer.
A highlight of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August was Adura Onashile’s portrayal of Henrietta Lacks in her one-woman show HeLa. Onashile’s performance brought the story of Lacks treatment in the 1950s and the prolifically multiplying cell line that has lived on in the decades since her death to ever-wider audiences. The wartime code-breaking endeavors of Alan Turing and his colleagues at Bletchley Park were also brought to life at the Edinburgh Festival in Idle Motion’s immensely imaginative That is All You Need to Know.
As ever, Frayn’s Copenhagen and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia proved popular choices for professional and amateur theatre companies throughout the world. In Hong Kong there was a reading of Copenhagen in Mandarin in October and as well as a revival of a production given by Nobel laureates in Gothenburg in December. The appeal of Arcadia was confirmed this year when it was voted fourth in a list of the Britain’s favorite plays.
There are promising events in store for 2014 with the world premiere of Dava Sobel’s play about Copernicus And the Sun Stood Still set for production in Denver in April. With new tours of STELLA, Hanging Hooke and A Life of Galileo on the cards in the UK as well as a new play about neuroscience on the way from Constellations playwright Nick Payne, 2014 is looking bright for science-in-theatre.
Two science-in-theatre classics featured in the National Theatre’s 50th Anniversary evening of celebration on 2nd November. Scenes from Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen were revived as part of the gala event broadcast live from the NT’s Olivier Theatre.
Actor Roger Allam, who presented Michael Frayn with a special Laurence Olivier Award in April this year, performed the speech from the close of Copenhagen in which Heisenberg recalls an encounter with an SS soldier in Bavaria at the end of the Second World War.
Rory Kinnear played pompous literary scholar Bernard Nightingale in an excerpt from Act II of Arcadia.
Both plays were first produced by the National Theatre. Arcadia opened in the Lyttelton Theatre on 13th April 1993, directed Trevor Nunn with Bill Nighy in the role of Bernard. Copenhagen premiered in the Cottesloe Theatre in 1998, directed by Michael Blakemore.
A great poet is always timely. A great philosopher is an urgent need. There’s no rush for Isaac Newton. We were quite happy with Aristotle’s cosmos. Personally, I preferred it. Fifty-five crystal spheres geared to God’s crankshaft is my idea of a satisfying universe.
Bernard Nightingale provokes Valentine. Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, Act II Scene 1
Two productions of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia will open in the USA in the coming weeks. There will be six performances of Arcadia at the Crossroads Theatre in Denver, Colorado between the 12th and 27th April 2013. The American Conservatory Theater in San Fransisco will be staging Arcadia between 16th May and 9th June 2013 with a series of acompanying events that includes a pre-show discussion with director Carey Perloff on 21st May.
A new production of Tom Stoppard’s ‘Arcadia’ is underway in Indiana, USA – a few weeks before the Writers Guild of America plans to honour the playwright for his contributions to screenwriting.
The Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette’s production of ‘Arcadia’ is playing on Fridays and Saturdays until 2nd February. The town of Lafayette is about 100 miles southeast of Chicago.
Set across two centuries and encompassing mathematics, chaos theory, poetry and landscape gardening, Stoppard’s 1993 play is one of the classics of the science in theatre genre. The director of the Lafayette production, Rachel Lambert, describes ‘Arcadia’ further in this short video on the theatre’s website.
On the 17th February in Los Angeles Sir Tom Stoppard will receive the Laurel Award from the Writers Guild of America for his contributions to screenwriting. Stoppard’s prolific film writing credits include ‘Shakespeare in Love’ with Marc Norman (1993) and the 2012 film adaption of Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’.