Doctor Austin and Doug Safety's Time-Tastical Time Tale and Visualise: Reloaded
This article is from 2009.
As if to prove that science is not just about brainiacs comparing test tubes, some explosive shows are set to ignite the Fringe. Anna Millar dons her lab coat
Whether it’s cryogenics or time travel, Darwin or the speed of light, one thing the Fringe seldom lacks is imagination. Always on hand to entertain all ages, this year’s Festival looks set to engage and inspire with an array of science-related shows for kids. For a time-travelling treat, look no further than The Time-Tastical Time Tale. Inspired by Doctor Who’s popularity, the show finds hyperactive scientist Doctor Austin and partner in time Doug Safety repairing an ‘ice cream van-come-time machine’.
‘We wanted to make it as fun as possible,’ explains five-time Fringe goer and Aberdeen-born performer Austin Low, who plays the Doctor. ‘We were keen to make it a show for all age groups and thought the idea of time travel, from sundials to Stephen Hawking and watches to wormholes, was something an audience could enjoy.’
Low is joined by Douglas MacDonald (Doug Safety) who currently enjoys roles as a presenter at the Glasgow Science Centre and as science advisor on the current series of Bafta award-winning CBeebies programme, Nina and the Neurons. ‘One of the main reasons we picked the topic is because of the whole Doctor Who thing,’ explains Low. ‘It’s become so popular, a phenomenon really, and opened the door for ways to approach science in really entertaining ways. Doctor Who always manages to explain everything with science and we wanted to do that too.’ Hoping to engage the audience with some of science’s bigger questions, demonstrations include the first public performance of a diamond being burned, as well an electricity experiment which creates indoor lightning.
Equally inspired is Visualise: Reloaded, which returns to the Festival for ten days following critical success last year. Prepare to be amazed as two techno-clowns present an altogether different kind of science class. Inspired by the quote ‘deep meaning lies often in childish play’, multi-talented duo Debbie Syrop and Gareth Smith take their lead from the everyday. Using the objects found there, they create physical theatre, projected images, music and live demonstrations to show how the smallest change in perspective can create a mysterious canvas of sound, visuals and image. Bottles of water are poured into each other, creating an incredible whirlpool image; simple objects like cabbages, balloons and toilet rolls are made extraordinary.
‘Our pilot shows taught us the value of not taking ourselves too seriously and using humour to engage the audience,’ explains Syrop. ‘The aim is not to teach but to spark curiosity and to encourage people to look more closely at the world around and motivate them to find out more about how it works. Experiential science theatre has the potential to engage both your heart and your mind. It should entertain but also make you think: like all great theatre should.’ In order to keep up the pace, no single segment of the show lasts longer than three minutes. ‘Parents often tell us that they came to see Visualise as a way to entertain the kids and were shocked when they actually enjoyed it just as much.
Up at The Zoo venue, the creative powerhouse behind shows such as Bending it Like Beckham and The Real Science of the Circus offer Fairy Liquid and the Burst Bubble, exploring science and maths through story, song, puppets and problem-solving activities. Prepare to watch as your hosts create an array of bubble demonstrations and all becomes clear. Finally, it’s cause for celebration as the National Museum of Scotland celebrates Darwin’s 200th birthday with Garden Detectives. Old and young are invited to explore what lurks at the bottom of their patch. Boasting interactive exhibits and live specimens, audiences are invited to take a larger-than-life look at plants and flowers, without even getting their hands dirty.
Doctor Austin & Doug Safety’s Time-Tastical Time Tale, Underbelly’s Hullabaloo, George Square Gardens, 0844 545 8252, 8–31 Aug, 2.50pm, £8–£9 (£6–£7). Preview 7 Aug, £5; Visualise: Reloaded, Venue 13, Canongate, 07074 201313, 21&22 Aug, 10.15am; 23–30 Aug, 1.15pm, £8 (£5).