13th International Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference

SALVADOR | BRAZIL
5-8 MAY, 2014

Theatre and science - the collaborative creation process of the Thai group B-Floor

The work of the Thai theater group “B-floor Theater” shuns conventional standards. There is no story with a beginning, middle and end, commonly expected by the public. The performances are developed through a collaborative process, with co-participation of directors, actors, writers and designers and the mounts begin with questions or concepts that the group is interested in developing. Invited by the Wellcome Trust to be part of the project Artin Global Health, the group presented in 2013 the play "Survival Games", an immersion into the world of doctors and researchers working to combat tropical diseases. The actress Nana Dakin, a member of the group, is one of the speakers at the 13th PCST Conference, to be held in May, in Salvador.

 

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Scene of "Survival Games" performance (Photograph: Wellcome collection)

 

Dakin spent her childhood and adolescence in different countries, such as Thailand, USA, Pakistan, France, Tanzania and Switzerland, due to her father's work at the UN Refugee agency - UNHCR. This constant moving profoundly influenced her choice to follow an artistic career. "I found that one of the best ways for me to make new friends and gain a sense of belonging in the places I moved to was to do theater. Working on a play helps to form close bonds because you spend a lot of time rehearsing and working together towards a common goal”, she explains.

The contact with other cultures also gave Dakin a vision of contrasts. Since childhood, the artist was exposed to poverty and wealth and different world views, which varied according to the political and economic reality of the country she was living. “I felt constantly foreign, even in Thailand or America (she has dual citizenship); I could never say 'this is where I'm from'. For this reason, I feel that I am someone who looks at society from the outside. But it’s not a negative thing, actually, it motivates me to explore and try to understand things in more depth”, she says.

 

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Scene of "Survival Games" performance (Photograph: Wellcome collection)

 

Nana Dakin had never thought of trying to do theatre that was inspired by science, until the group was approached by the Wellcome Trust to be a part of the Art in Global Health project. There were three phases of the work: research, performance creation and the actual performance. During the first phase, the group interviewed researchers, doctors and patients to gather information, a completely new experience for them. "We had never started a performance by collecting primary source data in this way. Not only that, but we were in scientific and medical spaces, which is not at all where we normally go! We not only had to learn things that were new and quite alien to us as artists, we had to think about how we could perform this scientific data - to communicate it through visuals and movement, and to create a story", recalls the artist.

Dakin estimates that with the project "Survival Games" the group has reached about 5,000 people, including public performances, visits to B-Floor's Facebook page and Youtube views. According to her, the connection between the audience and the story that is being told is fundamental. "I think social engagement can be increased when we (artists and scientists) succeed in drawing the public to see and experience a story they can connect to. I believe that humans are curious by nature and we are interested in exploring and discovering things. I think that when art and science can meet to create a space for that to happen - whether it is through a performance, an exhibition or other mediums - it will attract people to come, learn and hopefully behave in a way that will contribute to greater societal well-being", she opines. “I think many people feel that neither art nor science are things that connect to their everyday lives, or that they are too difficult for "normal" people to understand”, she synthesizes.

Nana Dakin will attend the plenary "Science in Culture" on 8 May at the PCST conference.

 

By Giselle Soares and Graziele Scalfi