Review: The Ethics of Progress

Quantum physics and theatre – two things you’d never expect to see together, or necessarily link in any way. And yet creative director of Unlimited Theatre, Jon Spooner, has created ‘The Ethics of Progress’, a 50minute theatrical storytelling which breaks down some of the most extraordinary yet ‘every day’ parts of science, with the help of Professor Vlatko Vedral, Professor of Quantum Information at Oxford University.

Discussing things that barely register as possible, Spooner engages with you, makes you laugh and then astounds you by making you understand some bizarre and intricate concepts. ‘Superposition’ is the wholly (almost) proved theory that one particle can be in two places at once. ‘Entanglement’ suggests that you can take two particles and entangle them together, so that no matter how far away from one another they are they will act in exactly the same way. I created the metaphor of twins feeling the same pain regardless of their locality to each other (although this is the incredibly condensed, dumbed-down, thinking-out-loud explanation). This all built up to the somewhat alarming ‘truth’ about ‘Teleportation’: the possibility of scanning a being, reproducing it elsewhere and destroying the original – something being studied at this very moment.

So, that’s the science part. Now for the theatre. If you’re expecting a show with lights, set-changes, and flashy costumes, this isn’t that kind of performance. It is the most honest form of theatre, in my opinion; one man on stage, no gimmicks, telling a story. And Jon Spooner is a phenomenal story-teller. Visual aids provided not only a simplified explanation for the theories, but also a mildly comical break to make this show more than just a physics lecture. That, along with Spooner’s personal anecdotes, insights, thoughts, and confusions brings the worlds of performance and science right on top of each other.

© Ed Collier

Following the ‘main event’ there was a Q&A session, which I greatly appreciated it. Allowing us to probe further after settling our minds a little, it gave the opportunity to clarify and dispute what had been presented – a risk you seldom see in traditional theatre. Whilst it included recorded FAQ answers by Professor Vlatko, the audience turned in a more philosophical direction, opening up the floor to the concepts of reality, the arts vs. science, and what we can consider ‘truth’. Breaking the barriers between these two ‘artificially separated’ disciplines and bringing very different groups of people together makes ‘The Ethics of Progress’ not just entertainment, but an important forum to debate, discover, and devour some incredible knowledge.

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