Fuel theatre podcast
Download Fuel's new monthly 'Body Pods' podcasts
Every month this year, progressive theatre producers Fuel (in association with the Roundhouse) will be giving away an instalment of its new 'Body Pods' podcast series, the follow up to last year's 'Everyday Moments'. Each is by a different entertainer (from a variety of disciplines) collaborating with a scientist and is themed around a specific part of the human body.
Podcast number 11: The Bone
After, er, a small break after some artists didn't turn in their descriptions, Fuel's Body Pods are back for November with 'The Bone', made by artist David Harradine and Dr Allie Gartland, Head Senior Lecturer in Bone Biology at the University of Sheffield.
Sayeth Harradine: ' I am interested in the idea of connectedness, and I want to make work that reminds people of the forgotten, unnoticed or ignored connections between our human world and the wider, wilder, world in which we live. Bone was a perfect subject for this.
'When I discovered that the massive chalk cliffs that buttress parts of the English coastline are actually made from the microscopic bone structures of prehistoric animals, I had a seismic reaction. I wanted to make something about that. So it was a joy to get into conversations with Allie Gartland, because as soon as she started to explain about the formation of bone and the dynamic processes of change it's always undergoing, I felt a strong link to my original ideas about landscape and time.
'Bone has been a bridge between the beach at Bempton Cliffs and Allie's office in Sheffield, between the unimaginable future and the fathomless reaches of the past, between the secret landscapes of the sea, the earth, and the body. My body. Your body. Bone connects.'
Podcast number 8: The Gut
This month’s podcast has been made by poet Alice Oswald and Dr Glen Gibson, Professor of Food Microbial Sciences at University of Reading.
Says Oswal d 'I’ve always been interested in the mouth as being both the box in which poems are stored and also the tube through which food passes. I like how incompatible these functions are and how digestion undermines dignity – for example, when people listen to poetry while eating biscuits, trying to chew very quietly. I see the gut as a court clown reminding us who we (partly) are. I was lucky enough to collaborate with Glen Gibson, a scientist specializing in gut bacteria at Reading University. He talked to me about the importance of micro-organisms in the lower intestine, commenting that ninety percent of cells in a human body belong to bacteria, some of which secrete chemicals that affect our moods and concentration. After leaving his office, my sense of identity was entirely dismantled. Poetry is an investigative discipline. I don’t think it’s there for transmitting facts. So I decided to make a piece that allowed Glen to present his data straight-forwardly, with my own work providing a kind of subconscious, underworld interruption. I had intended to write a meticulous account of eating from the point of view of bacteria, but what emerged was a cannibal dinner party, a vision of what happens when you put the stomach in government, even a hint of a comparison between the digestive system and the current political one… .’
Podcast number 7: The Nictitating Membrane
This month’s podcast has been made by poet and performer Chris Thorpe and Amanda Boyle and Dr Joe Cain, Head of Department and Senior Lecturer in History and Philosophy of at UCL, whose research includes the history of evolutionary studies.
Says Thorpe: ‘Normally I'm pretty good at seeing the boundaries between things. When I thought of any part of my body, though, that process completely broke down. I'd find myself thinking about my kidneys, my kneecaps, my eyebrows, and for some reason I just couldn't take them out of context. I guess that's what attracted me to the body's dead ends. The vestigial structures. The remnants. They're easy to isolate, because they live outside that dance of survival and interdependence. They just hang around, slowly evolving themselves out of the party, because we don't need them any more – they live within us, they're part of us, but they don't help us live. Then I talked to Joe Cain – which everyone should do if they ever get the chance. And he made me realise these dead ends – the nictitating membrane, the coccyx, the shiver of goosebumps – are anything but dead. They sum us up exactly. They emerge from chaos and they go back to chaos, and they're a constant, inspiring reminder that even though you and me might only hang around for a few decades, our species will never be done with the constant process of change that stops us stagnating.’
Podcast number 6: The Arse
This month’s podcast has been made by film and television director Amanda Boyle and Dr David Gems, a geneticist who heads a research group at the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing.
Says Boyle: 'When Fuel generously asked me to do Bodypods I thought – oh god I’ll have to write (I rarely do), perform (I never do) and work in sound (moving images are my game). Yet the chance to work with a scientist of my choice was irresistible. Over the years Dr. David Gems has been my go-to-guy whenever I’ve needed a scene scienced up. He’s an expert in ageing and those are the people you want in your address book. Elegantly smart, dryly witty and with an all-seeing eye totally alien to mine, I’m almost completely happy putting the future of humanity in his hands. Together we’ve decided to look at the ageing body through the condition of cellulite. David is evangelical in his desire for people to realise that this is not a disease and that the need to change body aesthetics is essential. Just as I’m keen to stress that I’m generally working on both not giving a damn and not being part of the problem. So together we bring you our arse-cast. It’s been tremendous fun to make and although we won’t be giving up our day jobs, I think it’s clear I do have a rear for radio’.
Podcast number 5: The Eye
This month’s podcast has been made by Silvia Mercuriali, an artist who has made innovative participatory audio work for many years as part of Rotozaza, and Dominic ffytche, senior lecturer at Kings College London and an expert in Charles Bonnet Syndrome, where people experiencing adult onset blindness experience hallucinations.
Says Mercuriali: ‘I have been working with instruction based theatre for more then ten years now. What drove me to this research was the fascination with presenting something on stage, which was live unrehearsed but nonetheless scripted. This fascination comes from thinking about how we present ourselves in the real world, how we make plans and then, on acting upon them, we fail to precisely fulfil our expectations. Working with Dominic has unveiled a philosophical dimension to this fascination, which lies in the Homunculus Argument. A very small idea of a fictional version of your self climbing over your body and then jumping into your eyes to take you though a journey inside your head turned out to have philosophical roots I hadn’t considered and a practical application. The way that researchers like Dominic approach questions and highlights the gaps in a theory is extremely useful when writing a script. The inside of our body even though now analyzed from all angles explained and charted, still holds a very fantastical imagery, especially when talking about brain functions and the way we perceive which lends itself very easily to creative writing.’
Podcast number 4: The Brain
This month's podcast has been made by artist and co-founder of Forest Fringe Deborah Pearson, and Paul Broks, neuropsychologist at Plymouth University and author of 'Into the Silent Mind'.
Says Pearson: 'The brain is the organ of the mind. But what and where is the mind? I collaborated with Paul Broks – a neuropsychologist and writer – whose book 'Into the Silent Land' sparked this question off in the three pounds of meat that rests inside my skull. We created a script by sending drafts back and forth to each other – each mind adding and amending according to their own thoughts and perspective. What evolved takes the listener directly into their own brain, with help from Alex Mee, who collaborated with us on the sound design. It’s a stroll around the hemispheres, and it won’t let you off easy.'
This month's podcast has been made by artist Gemma Brockis, co-founder of Shunt, in collaboration with Tilli Tansey, professor of the History of Modern Medical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London. The podcast includes extracts from Charles Bells’ 1833 book, ‘The Hand, its Mechanism and Vital Endowments as Evincing Design’, and should be listened to with headphones.
Says Brockis: 'I chose hands as my subject because I’ve always enjoyed them. My enjoyment had much to do with their pleasing looks and tricks and little to do with analysis. I was nervous that digging deep might dissipate their magic. But I’ve discovered in them a strange capacity to lay their mechanics bare, while revealing nothing to damage their mystique.
'In my exploration I looked history – pondering Sherrington’s description of the end of the fingers as comparable to the retina in relation to their relation to the brain and arguments that the brain’s development was lead by the hand. I also was moved by the curious poetry of Charles Bells’ 1833 book, 'The Hand, its Mechanism and Vital Endowments as Evincing Design'which considers us in relation to other animals (for which I especially visited the rare books room before Tilli pointed out it was available as a free download).
'As a theatre-maker, I am drawn to Darwin’s writing on emotion as much as Barnum’s educational museum. There is a sometimes dirty blur between scientific method and popular entertainment, which appeals to me. So I consider the hand through a variety of analytic approaches, from forbidden arts to poetic sciences, approaches that share only a will to penetrate the secrets of the upper extremity.'
This month's podcast has been made by Francesca Beard, a performance poet based in London, and Dave Hildick-Smith, a micro-valve heart surgeon based at Royal Sussex Hospital, Brighton.
Says Beard: 'I was never that enamoured of the heart. As an organ, it seemed basic. I talked with Dave Hildick-Smith about the heart. I learnt about his work as a cardiologist. I listened to him analyze his relationships with patients. I put on scrubs and observed him maneuver a nitonol valve through the femoral artery and into a living, beating heart. I realized I was a doofus and the heart is awesomesauce.
'I hope that when you listen to this podcast, it makes you feel warm towards the very important pump in your chest. Happy Valentine’s Day. Take care of your heart, it’s a mind-blowingly phenomenal piece of kit'
This month's podcast is a collaboration between Fuel founder David Rosenberg and David McAlpine, professor of auditory neuroscience and director of the Ear Institute.
Says Rosenberg: 'For over 40 years I have had two ears - one on each side of my head just below the temple tips of my glasses. I could probably get away without wearing glasses but I like to get my money's worth from the additional services that my ears provide. I also have a third ear which I only use for situations when people are talking in tongues - that ear has more mystical properties and does not conform to the typical physiology of the former two.
'To understand how the ears function it is first necessary to accept that we are mortal.
'As with most things - we have little interest in how they work until they stop working - if one of your ears has stopped working you will find the podcast confusing due to the difficulty you will experience in locating sounds. This ability depends on inter-aural time and level differences.
'If both your ears have stopped working then, rather than confusing, it will simply be a bit boring.
'If you listen without headphones you will also not be able to appreciate the three dimensional quality of the recording.'
Produced by Fuel, Roundhouse and the UCL Ear Institute; funded by a Wellcome Trust arts award.