Showing and Telling at the Dana Centre

If you’re a regular peruser of this blog, then you may have read about previous Show and Tell Salon in posts such as this one and this one. We describe these small events as open spaces for interesting conversations, sparked by short presentations from invited speakers and have had presentations from bird watching lessons to the history of the windowed envelope.


This month for the first time we hosted a rather special Salon at the Dana Centre for a wider audience, themed around the intersection between science and performance, art, or play. The structure was devised to facilitate a larger audience discussion and debate; each of two halves began with presentations that posed interesting questions to the room, followed by a period of group discussion between audience on their tables, and finishing with points shared back by groups to the room (and handily scribbled on cards so we could share them back to you here). Responses ranged from serious debate, to whimsical nonsense, to questions right back at the speakers.


Boho Interactive asking, ‘When does a science-based performance stop being scientific and start becoming science-y?’ They discussed their performance piece, A Prisoner’s Dilemma, which explores Game Theory- a branch of science that studies strategic decision making in groups.

Audience responses included:
‘Is it possible to engage people in science without adding emotion/narrative?’
‘Is the performance teaching science or pseudo-science?’
‘When you detach the electrodes’
‘The whole process of learning science is one of building complex lies over simple lies- and lots of people leave before they move beyond the very simple…’

Sydney Padua asking, ‘What if the computer had been invented in the Victorian era?’ Sydney introduced us to Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, parents of the computer, and the mechanical Difference Engine- made to compute values of polynomial functions. He attempted to make the Analytical Engine, a far more complex machine, but it was never completed.

Audience responses included:
‘The computer would have destroyed Victorian leisure lifestyles’
‘Use computer to find Jack the Ripper’
‘Depends who built it, if Babbage had succeeded, England would still have an empire’
‘They would have spent more time fixing it than using it’

Emilie Grenier (Commes des Machines) asking, ‘How can one design for the 1 percent without going to hell?’ Emilie discussed potential solutions for designing sustainable, ethical, luxury products. She showed us examples of very common minerals she was hoping to create desirable products out of, and sparked some of the fiercest discussion of the evening.

Audience responses included:
‘How do the 1% buy luxury without going to hell?’
‘You design experiential objects of an ultra-limited run’
‘The ideas we have the luxury of playing with are the ultimate non-necessity’
‘The whole question is backward, it should be about persuading the 1% that what they want is wrong. You hack to make helping the 99% or joining the 99% the aspirational good.’
‘Luxury = (quality + scarcity) + price + storytelling. (optional factors)’

[A sadly absent Jon Spooner of Unlimited Theatre asking, ‘How can we add even more practical value to my trip into space?’ Click the link to read more about Jon’s mission.]

Tom Bowtell of Coney, asking ‘Is it ever ok to lie to kids?’ In Coney’s Adventures in Learning work we regularly lie to children by placing them in narratives that we play as real, to enhance their learning and give them a magical experience. Tom also discussed Father Christmas and how different people reacted to the news that *spoiler* he isn’t real.

Audience responses included:
‘Lying to kids is fine- we tell them they will have a job they like and they can pay their bills’
‘ALWAYS lie to kids, they will figure it out’
‘When it protects their health and well-being only’
‘Play = lies’
‘Schools lie to children every day by omission of content, focus of syllabus’
‘What is fiction but lies? (Kids love fiction)’

Applespiel asking, ‘What makes an audience interaction in performance successful?’ Applespiel discussed whether any interaction was a good interaction in theatre, and what kind of audience response they hope to get from their work. They told us about Snail Piece, where the audience decide the fate of a snail, which brought about much debate on the worth of a snail’s life- debate certainly being a successful audience interaction.

Audience responses included:
‘Killing snails is never lovely for audience interaction’
‘Would the outcome be different if they used a slug instead of a snail? You can only save 1, the ultimatum’
‘I like the real danger of Snail Piece: DEATH’

And we had some fascinating drawings that we’re still trying to figure out…



If you’ve got any comments sparked by the questions or audience responses, we’d love to hear them.

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Alex Rowse

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