Director: Martin Lamb
So, shall we blow some things up?
Predictably with an audience of mainly 7-12 year olds, the response was “YES!”
This was The Energy Show, a mix of comedy and science produced by Science Museum Live and touring around the country calling at over 30 venues – one of which was Harrogate Theatre. This 2014 tour builds on the show produced last year, which received good reviews, and was the start of the Science Museum’s involvement with large live shows.
The premise is Phil and Annabella are two female scientist students from the future, who have been put together in an old laboratory to eventually deliver a presentation to demonstrate and explain all nine forms of energy in 5 minutes – or they’ll be expelled from science college. To aid them in their quest, the pair have a mute assistant Bernard and a virtual lab assistant i-Nstein – who is displayed on the several video screens around the stage.
This is not a straight “I am the lecturer and you will watch me” type of show – great thought has been put into developing a story around which the science can be interwoven. At the start, there’s actually a fairly lengthy section just to introduce the premise – and the fact the two students are as different as chalk and carbon. This makes for some good moments of comedy – and of course, as we find out later about magnets; opposites attract.
Fortunately, it isn’t long before we get into some serious science stuff – and setting fire to methane bubbles certainly grabbed the audience’s attention. Each of the science demonstrations came from the student’s need to deliver the presentation at the end of the show, and therefore moving from one energy to another didn’t feel at all forced. Once the demonstration was announced, the virtual lab assistance i-Nstein would spend a minute or so explaining the science behind what we were about to see. This worked well, with these short science explainers were animated in a way to make them accessible to the intended audience – and the audience got used to having a really impressive experiment come after these science sections.
The experiments come thick and fast; from shattering frozen flowers to exploding balloons and bottle-firing rocket cannons – this is science teaching at its best. Both Phil and Annabella are wonderful in their rôles, and handle the fairly demanding props, such as the flame throwers, with consummate ease. Given there’s a lot here to go wrong, all of the props and experiments performed faultlessly – and the potential problems of the actors working and conversing with the pre-recorded i-Nstein on the screen, didn’t appear at all.
There is enough of a script to pull the show through, and at the end of the student’s 5 minute presentation, the audience is given the task of deciding whether they have passed in the time-honoured way – and the noise seemed to take the two actors a bit a back.
This is a great way to get science into children. Think of what Horrible Histories did to a subject which was all in the past, and you’re not far off how this show works for science. More please.
Runs until: 30th May 2014, then continues nationally