Cap-a-Pie turns research into theatre

A group of academics will appear later this month in the third instalment of Performing Research.

Postgraduates Matt Jenkins, Laura Richards and Dr Quoc Vuong will have their research showcased, acting with help from a group of over twenty other researchers.

The play with be performed at the Northern Stage and will provide innovative, enthralling and surprising performances, showcasing the academics’ work in a way that would otherwise not be possible.

The project has been developed alongside associate theatre maker, Rebecca Louise Collins and Newcastle University.

The show is produced by Cap-a-Pie, a theatre company which brings together professional theatre makers and communities to co-create theatre and foster learning.

The company is keen to see how theatre and drama can be useful in different contexts, striving to make productions that connect with both participants and audiences.

Katy Vanden said: “The academics took part in the programme to advance themselves and pursue careers in education and entertainment, to enable their research to proceed further or just for fun.”

Artistic director Brian McCormick said: “Every researcher I meet always seems to be doing the most fascinating work. I’m always hugely intrigued by their research and how I can create new theatre with them and share this with audience.

“The three performances are each completely different.

“Matt focused on the methodology behind the creation of a ‘happiness index’ by David Cameron in 2010, while Laura used Twitter to analyse the effect of Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign.

“Dr Vuong explored visual perception in humans, birds and bees to make sense of how people’s brains understand the world around them.“

Laura said: “I went in with a really open mind and didn’t know what to expect. I knew that I had to be observant rather than going in with an agenda.”

Before joining the group, she spent time working with an organisation in Cambodia- an experience that had a clear impact on her research.

She said: “Cambodia was really the catalyst for me in taking this research project. The conversations I had with the girls there reminded me of how the themes and issues around gender discrimination were still relevant everywhere, including the UK.”

Her conclusions were surprising, finding three different uses of the hashtag.

Some people loved the campaign because it highlighted its necessity of speaking out for women, despite not taking part in sport themselves. Others engaged in sport but in a hyper-feminine way, beating a personal best but whilst wearing Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses; and people using the term in a gender-neutral way, not using any terms to identify themselves as women or girls. A large number of hashtag users who identified as women questioned why they were being called a girl.

This is an area that people have strong opinions on. Laura admitted that she “had quite a personal reaction to the campaign.”

A number of cases that boosted the self-esteem of females were evident.

Laura described the experience of one runner criticised for having “fat legs”, before Sport England intervened and motivated her to keep running.

Matt’s research drew him into the depths of statistical analysis.

He said: “It’s deceptively simple. You ask someone.”

According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK’s average happiness is rated as 7.2/10, flagging behind the positivity of Denmark.

His research aimed to find out the methodology behind measuring happiness, what it really means when people say they are a certain number out of ten, and whether it was only him that felt awkward when asked that question.

Matt argued that efficiency in government decisions is a key motivator in the modern age.

He said: “Once happiness has been put in relative terms we can start thinking about efficiency. For instance, does a museum create more happiness than a council-funded youth centre?

“For the unemployed, jobseekers allowance could potentially be given on condition that people undergo cognitive therapy, making them happier and more successful at job interviews, at a lower cost to the taxpayer. There is a great deal of money in wellbeing.”

There is no definitive conclusion to Matt’s research, other than that “more research is required.”

Broad questions remain about how statistics are calculated.

When asked about how he felt working with other researchers from different disciplines, he contrasted the relationship of the social sciences and the sciences, for “the things social scientists take for granted are disputed by scientists, especially when you’re talking about statistics to people who rely on statistics in their everyday lives.”

Fascinated by visual perception in humans and animals, Quoc found the most surprising result of his research was that all animals use the same generic principles to make sense of the world around them; they all recognise objects in similar ways.

However, these general principles are difficult to discover.

He joined the project to learn the performance skills required to communicate his research to students, clinicians, artists and the public.

All of the academics presenting their work with Cap-a-Pie wanted to engage as broad an audience as possible, rejecting the usual dissemination of academic research within closed circles.

Performing Research is running over an eight-week period, culminating in a one hour performance on Thursday 26th November.

The performance will be followed by a discussion of the academics’ research, further enhancing its engagement with the public.

Image: Katy Vanden

Image: Katy Vanden

, funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the University.

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