Edinburgh Blog: How acting is like chemistry

In school, I loved chemistry and was fascinated by how mixing elements caused different reactions, like how mixing vinegar and baking soda causes an explosion, or how different levels of acidity change the color of a strip of litmus.

Doing theater is like a giant chemistry lab. We have different devices or tools, but it’s always our job to find the balance of each element, with expert timing and conscious measurement.

Nothing better than being at home is a tragic odyssey into gay club culture that aims to hold your attention with its alchemy. In a play that investigates intersectional violence in spaces meant to be called home, there are so many contradictions in the balance. The narrator evokes a world that is visceral and fueled by alcohol and sex, but where he also steps back and witnesses the nuanced power dynamics rooted in the nightclub scene. Oh yes, and there are many parallels with the Technicolor world of The Wizard of Oz.

Time for a little chemistry. There are four main elements in our production: poetry, music, dance and video art. Each component found its way into the process quite organically once we figured out the story we wanted to tell.

Poetry was our starting point, with its magical ability to blend the worlds of reality and metaphor. Some early drafts led us very quickly to the music, with its expressive ability to underline and emphasize words and sentiment. With the play taking place primarily in a nightclub, the choreography also made its way into the story very early on, supporting the rhythm of the text through complex sign language.

All of these elements come together in a solo exhibition, featuring Alex Roberts. It’s a chemical reaction in itself: it moves and changes and becomes the different voices in the room.

Initially, the video was used practically to help solve the fact that Alex had to play all the characters (we still use quite a few neon silhouettes of his body from our early R&D.) However, after a while the design of the video became the Erlenmeyer flask which delicately but firmly holds all the raised elements in place.

The results were truly inspiring and the balance of these four elements seems seamless, hopefully allowing the piece to shoot through you like a lightning bolt of rainbow electricity.

No Place Like Home is at the Pleasance Dome from August 3-29

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