It is mentioned repeatedly during this new play that quantum biology – the science peg the story hangs on – is so complicated that if you think you understand it, you really don’t.
The sentiment is one that production company Curious Directive would probably consider a metaphor for the play itself, which consists of multiple, interlinked narratives scattered throughout with molecules of science, multimedia tricks, and current affairs.
Personally I’m a bigger fan of Ockham’s razor, and this production – which at 2 hours 20 runs a clear half-hour over the programmed time – could do with some fierce rationalisation.
The main narrative drive is the creation of a “comedy science podcast” featuring the work of Carol Steiner, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. For unexplained reasons that mutates into an exploration of her family tree – her three daughters and her missing husband – through increasingly unlikely interviews.
The podcast, like the use of videos, projections, and sound clips, serves to obfuscate rather than illuminate the story, jolting the audience out of suspending disbelief when the story already has a few too many startling coincidences. For a play supposedly built around science, the denouement has a little bit too much magic about it too.
The cast work spectacularly hard, with the five actors taking on multiple roles and shifting convincingly from character to character – and even between genders. It is technically adept, with an innovative set (although the ‘radio booth’ that is home to some characters seems an ugly afterthought).
Curious Directive have a good track record and I’m sure this show, premiering at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, will continue to be refined as the run progresses. After all, for a company that marries art and science, they surely believe in the benefits of evolution.