Art – is there any science to it?

16 Oct


The Nest, a one-off theatre production commissioned by NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC and written and produced by Strawberry Blonde Curls Theatre Company, examines the opinion-dividing topic of sharing health records. The interactive show is taking place at Z-ARTS on Thursday 29 October at 19.15 and free tickets can be booked online.

As a preview to the play, John Tomlinson, Producer of Strawberry Blonde Curls, gives his perspective on mixing science and the arts in this latest venture.

“If someone were to ask me why I love the arts, I’d probably say it’s because they are inspiring, courageous and unpredictable – there’s no science to it. I mean, there’s no science to what makes good art, unless you make a piece of art about science. Lost? I’ll explain.

I’ve always been in love with making theatre and performance happen, it’s the most satisfying job I could have wished for. Lucky for me, that’s what I do for a living. Strawberry Blonde Curls Theatre Company has been part of my life since Rosie MacPherson and I set it up after graduating from The University of Salford in 2010. We wanted to make theatre our way, dramas through strong, intelligent, emotional characters that twist and turn to explore issues that people don’t talk about, or express. The arts do that; they give you a platform to make something truthful and real, something that can put your stamp on – a theme, a subject or a genre.

I’ve always been someone who talks about what I do, because the passion oozes out of me. So when I find myself at an event about Arts-Science collaboration earlier this year, I talk, and listen and talk some more. I talk to everyone, but I listen more than I talk. I always remember a colleague of mine once told me that if you need a plumber, you know you’re going to pass one that day, you just have to find who it is. Producing theatre is very much that; my role is to find brilliant creative people – actors, writers, directors, designers, composers – and fuse together the best mixture. Finding the right components and do an educated experiment, you could say. So when you’re at an event like that Arts-Science collaboration session, it’s perfect and this is why I’m writing this blog. I met some of the Greater Manchester PSTRC team who wanted to produce an engaging project with researchers, who want to make something different – to challenge themselves, as well as present results of their work. We’re on the same page and I tell them that we’re right for the job. I can get a masterful team together to get to grips with the brief, understand the content and you know what, it’ll be a challenge for us as well. Excellent. If this had been a simple task, I probably wouldn’t have been interested – we’re a company that wants to produce relevant, timely, new pieces of work and this is definitely one of those.

So, in a similar way to a scientist carefully examining the fine details of their elements to bring them all together (without something exploding), that’s what I’ve been doing. The script of this piece is crucial, the venue, the environment and everyone making it has to understand the core values of why we’re making this show. It’s a one off, it’s limited capacity and it’ll be over in a flash – but for the next month, it’ll be the most important thing we do.

As I said, there’s no science to it. The arts are so exciting and unpredictable that trying to understand the science of what happens when people are absorbed by, and engaged with, an exceptional piece of drama, is what everyone is trying to research. The artist, or scientist that discovers that, will be remembered for a long, long time.”

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