Thursday, 17 February 2011

Seeking Perfection

How far would you go to make yourself stronger, more intelligent or more beautiful? Would you get a chip in your brain? Would you be a guinea pig for stem cell therapy? These are some of the questions that young performers explored in the Seeking Perfection project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, last Autumn.

In the run up to the Festival in 2010, we worked with Nowgen, Contact and the University of Manchester to delve into the exciting mix of science, ethics and performance. Together, we worked with a group of young performers and science undergraduates to create a short, thought-provoking performance based on the theme of Human Enhancement.
First came a series of workshops with researchers and ethicists from Manchester and across the UK, including Dr Mark Gasson (the first man to be infected with a computer virus), covering the research into and bioethical concerns about Human Enhancement.

The performance was shown alongside a debate at the Zion Arts Centre.

 Over a period of 4 weeks, the group came together to debate, research and think about how researchers are pushing the boundaries of what it means to be human. Using the science and ethics as the theme and inspiration, the group created a short performace incorporating ideas from these discussions. A mix of acting, music, rap and circus skills, the performance brought together an exciting mix of performance styles. This was premiered on stage in the Manchester Arndale, the city's busiest shopping area, taking science to the streets and engaging people who might not attend a Festival event. The performance was then run alongside a debate chaired by Sarah Chan.

Most of the group who developed the final performances hadn’t studied science after their GCSEs but said that they were amazed by the research they discovered and really enjoyed getting to grips with science again.

“I’ve learned more about science… I didn’t really pay attention in school to science. Now I’ve got involved with this it’s opened my eyes more to where science is going to in the future.”

“I thought when I finished science at school I would never have to think about science again,
and I’ve learned it’s around us all the time and I should maybe pay more attention – I might blink and the world could be a completely different place.”

We captured the project on video which you can see below. It gives highlights from the project and the performance and interviews with some of the participants and project leaders.

Thanks to Andy Miah for the photo of the event at the Zion Arts Centre. You can see more on his Flickr profile.

If you would like a copy of the project evaluation for Seeking Perfection, please get in contact with Natalie Ireland, Festival Director.

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