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The Darwin Project Blog

Keep up to date as our first ever collaboration with the Biochemical Society evolves ...


Back home

Now that our time in Worcester is over and the cast are back at home we’d like to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped make it such a successful and enjoyable week. The staff at the University were absolutely brilliant and didn’t seem to mind having their lovely new lab being taken over by all things Hive 9 for a week - and for that we are very grateful!

During our week in Worcester the show was seen by over 500 young people over the course of 9 performances, we had great responses from them and their teachers and we really enjoyed bringing Hive 9 to a new audience. We want to thank Blessed Edward Olcorne Catholic College, St Mary’s Roman Catholic School and Droitwich Spa High School for bringing their groups of students to see the show, we really enjoyed meeting all of you and hearing your opinions.


It’s been an exciting day for the science department at the University of Worcester. They’ve had a hive in their conservation garden for some time but have been waiting for the bees to go in it - and today they arrived! Apparently they’re settling in well. We also heard something really cool; they’re going to get a number 9 to put on the hive – so there’ll be a permanent tribute to Hive 9 in Worcester!

We had two performances today, both with lovely audiences. Some of the students travelled for over an hour to get to us, so we were glad when they said they liked it! We’ve also been collecting feedback from the students, it’s great to hear what everyone thinks of the play.

Can’t believe its our last day tomorrow, the week has gone so quickly. We’re going to try and make the last two shows our best yet!


So, two days in to our week of performances here at Worcester and we’ve already done 5 shows! The students that have come to see it have responded really positively. Both the play itself and the experience of being in a high-tech lab seems to have sparked a real desire to ask big questions – particularly about science and emotion. One student asked, “Are our emotions linked to our DNA?”

We’ve been really impressed with the students of Worcester – Suzy says her ‘respectometer’ has gone up considerably.

This afternoon we did a special performance to selected university staff and governors.  It was a very diverse group – including scientists and an ordained priest. The play provoked a lively debate, which went on for some time and covered a range of issues. One thing that stood out for us was an idea that came from one of the teaching staff in the science department at the university.  He said that physicists now believe that humans exist in ten dimensions – and that we have no idea what happens in six of those – perhaps God could be there somewhere, we don’t know. He liked the idea that there is perhaps room for both beliefs (religion and Darwinism) to co-exist. Although there are proven facts about evolution - there are also lots of mysteries and things left to discover. One thing we ARE certain of, however, is Hive 9's ability to start a dialogue – rather than come down heavily on either side of the debate.

 We’re off to explore the city a bit more and prepare for our last four shows. We may even visit Malvern, and see where Charles Darwin's daughter Anne is buried."


Space, skulls and swans

Hive 9 has officially landed in the charming city of Worcester. So far we’ve glimpsed the cathedral, seen a LOT of swans and, most importantly, found our way to the University. We had a lovely welcome from Professor John Newbury and Lorraine Weaver, who showed us round the campus and explained a bit more about the week ahead.

The lab that we’re performing in all week is in the Charles Darwin building - it’s white, pristine and only a year old.  Today we found out that the ‘pollen count’ that you see on the weather is actually recorded on the roof here! We also enjoyed getting to know the other visitors to the lab – the array of skulls around the room. There’s a crocodile, a tiger and even a gorilla! We think they definitely add something to the play.

We spent the day rehearsing and settling Hive 9 into its new home - this lab is quite a lot bigger than the others  it’s been performed in before so one of our challenges was to work out how to make the play sit in the space. After a few experiments with various rope/table/trolley combinations we got there.  
Tomorrow morning the performances begin – we’re excited to get going and give Hive 9 its first outing outside of London.


On the road

Hive 9 is back on the road - Suzie and Okorie, along with Assistant Director Emily Kempson - are in Worcester at the University of Worcester all this week.  They'll be writing a blog about their experiences - check back here for their first entry.


The end of evolution ...


After two weeks of near-constant performing, it's nearly time for Suzie and Okorie to hang up their costumes - Hive 9's tour of Islington schools is coming to an end - we finish on Thursday with two shows at Highbury Grove School.

This evening's public performance came at the end of our busiest day yet (3 school shows watched by over 100 students).  It has been brilliant seeing the show in different schools, different labs and with different students and teachers.  From the brand new science rooms at St Mary Magdalene Academy in central Islington to the much older, hardwood labs at St Aloysius College, we've found young people really enaging with the play and excited by the argument that it presents.

We're really excited about the prospect of reviving the play soon and hope to have some news on that in the near future.  Meanwhile, the Biochemical Society, who commissioned the project in the first place, will now use their education networks to ensure that the play is available to every drama and science teacher in the country.  We hope some might even team up to use it together.

After the two Highbury Grove shows tomorrow, we'll be meeting up to evaluate and discuss the whole project - from the distant cell of that very first day of workshops with the young people who helped us make the play, through its entire evolution. 

The play will now tour schools on an ad hoc basis - please get in touch if you are interested in hosting a performance.




A wonderful day today, with three performances of Hive 9 to three very enthusiastic classes at Highbury Fields School.  It's the first time we've performed it to a single-sex audience and the girls responded incredibly well - joining in the buzzes as Arron's phone calls to his friends go unreturned at the start of the play.

Teachers and students have so far been really positive in their feedback about the play - with lots of different opinions aired in the question and answer sessions.  Our favourite question so far (to Suzie, who plays Bea and Okorie, who plays Arron) ... "do you two really fancy each other?"




First performance

We've done our first three shows!  Islington Arts and Media School Year 10s have been a wonderful audience so far - giving us some very strong feedback and responding well to the themes and ideas in the play.

Tonight we're showing the play to the Biochemical Society's special guests and the young people who helped us make the play in the first place.



Costumed Up

Charlie Damigos, our designer, has been busy all week designing and buying costumes and all the other props and elements that the show needs.

Here are the two actors - Okorie and Suzie - in their Arron and Bea clothes.



Lab rats

We're now well into our second week and since I last wrote we've discovered a lot more about the play, about the people we'll be performing to and, perhaps most importantly, the spaces in which we'll be working.

On Friday afternoon we went over to our first school venue - Islington Arts and Media School and spent three hours hanging out in a science lab there with Daniel, Mollie and Eliza - three of the young people who helped us make the play in the first place.  It was incredibly instructive being able to feel our way around the space and to run the play in a science class for the first time.

There are some photos of the rehearsal in the Darwin Project Photo Gallery.

This week is all about getting the play on its feet, ensuring that we really understand what's going on and doing all the things necessary before next week.  The designer, Charlie, is in a lot at the moment - designing and fitting costumes, researching obscure scientific terms for the 'slides' that appear towards the end of the play.

We're also putting together a range of resources for teachers to use after we've finished the show - thank God (or Darwin) for Ben and Dale, our science experts, who've been invaluable throughout and are now busily putting sheets of information together so that the play leaves a legacy for all the students who see it.




Hive 9 ... Week 1

Rehearsals have started for Hive 9, with Okorie and Suzie starting to get to know the characters of Arron and Bea respectively.  The writer, Ali, is in with us all week which means that we're able to make modifications and develop the play as we go - a big luxury.

Yesterday we took the production team, including Designer Charlie Damigos, to the Natural History Museum and the new Darwin Centre there.  Somewhere in between the brilliantly 1970s human evolution display and the incredibly 21st century Darwin Centre we found a real appreciation for just how complex, thorough and detailed scientists have to be.  Not a surprise, of course, but really useful in exploring Arron's journey in the play - as a scientist who comes home to find all his friends seduced by a new feel-good group with no real basis to their theories.

On Friday we'll be heading over to Islington Arts and Media School, where we started the whole Hive 9 process with 13 young people, to start to explore the play in its true home - a Year 10 science lab.



Buzzing with anticipation

We're delighted to announce that the Darwin Project play now has a proper title. 

From now on, the whole project will be known as Hive 9.  We'll be updating the rest of the project site to reflect this very soon.



Darwin Workshop Video: Nickcolia, Aisha and Robert

A short video (2:45) of three of last weeks' workshops most important participants - our Year 10 students Robert, Aisha and Nickcolia, who all stayed behind to record their thoughts about exploring evolution through theatre.

If you're on a slower internet connection, this video might take a short time to load - please be patient!


Workshop thoughts

Following four days of brain-stretching, opinion-changing and cell-mutating, we've come to the end of the research and development workshops for the Darwin project.  Our writer Ali Taylor now has five weeks to sift, sort and develop the ideas that we started to explore. 

It's been a really wonderful few days, and the feedback from all the participants, actors and scientists has been excellent. We've learnt about cells, time, chance and adaption - about how old the earth is and how important time is to evolution.  We've discussed belief, faith, science, evidence, philosophy, politics and the meaning of life.  We've proved that young people are sometimes better than adults at being open minded, conscientious and respectful when talking about evolution.

We're all really excited about how the script will develop.

There's a new gallery of photos from the workshops now online.

And, to finish the week, here's a selection of comments from the participants about the workshops.  Check back on Monday for a video of our Year Ten participants talking about what the project meant to them.


"I have a higher respect for the process and it has furthered my belief in the idea of miracles - miracle as in a scientific word meaning mistake or chance"
Naomi Ackie

"I find Darwin much more interesting now"
Jake Head

"I've most enjoyed learning about evolution in a theatrical way"
Hauk Pattison

"I know a lot more about Darwin now to tell the truth.  But I still feel the same because I believe parts of what Darwin said and parts of the Bible"
Nickcolia King-n'da

"It was much better than I could have imagined.  Ben and Dale (science experts) for the win!"
Daniel O'Keefe

"I've never had to teach Darwin's theories before, and look so closely at the social/spiritual aspects ... I was really surprised at how enthusiastic and insightful everyone was"
Dale Bancroft

"It was so interesting to see individuals' reactions from different angles"
Ben Storey

"The project met my expectations - and more - I thought it would be education without fun, but it was extremely the opposite"
Hayley Thomas

"I was really surprised by the level of dedication and input the kids put in and the enthusiasm they had"
Okorie Chukwu

"We touched on SO many aspects of life ... I've really enjoyed meeting new people and working with professional actors and writers"
Aisha Issahku-Ajona

"I think Darwin is really clever!"
Diego Alejandro

"I now believe in God and a bit of evolution ... learning what other peoples' thoughts and opinions were just amazing"
Robert Ristic


Knowledge for Life

All this week we're workshopping ideas for the Darwin Project with young people from Islington.  Here's workshop Participant Hayley Thomas's take on the process so far:


Well, I must say this Darwin project has really enlightened my knowledge and attitude to Darwin’s theory of Evolution for sure!

I mean, its sooo exciting to find out how different beliefs can be stemmed from one man’s theory and other beliefs that challenge the theory also..

Before I start babbling on, I’ll just give u a brief...ish summary of what we've done in the past three days... which is like four billion years on the time line we made which starts from us being soup, to , eventually humans ... at the moment we’ve become multi celled organisms ... OH YEAH!!

Monday we looked closely at Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and this was explained by a real (yes real) Scientist called Dale (rocks!) and we introduced ourselves as well as our beliefs by having a discussion, where we were given statements and a scale of one to ten labelled on the floor. According to the statements given, we then had to move to the number, we though best made this statement true to ourselves and we got to discuss why- evolution was dropped in there as well folks, oh yeah..

Tuesday we looked more at developing the play we were going to produce with the help of profesh actors namely : Suzie, Okorie and Project Co-ordinator Maryam.

We then got into groups and were given various real statements from opponents of Darwin’s theory. We then partook in further discussion. We also did sketches of a brief summary of evolution, which helped us understand it more, well me n e ways... lol

After all that niceness, we started looking at possible plots for the story we were going to produce, who our two professional actors were going to perform to yr 10 science classes, with OUR names under 'EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS' .. doesn’t really get any better than that, really ... no ...

Wednesday, we actually were given the chance to see a bit of the play Ali, (badman writer,in a very good way lol) had put together, which was really good! and we had to come up with possibly what the ending could be.. we were also given a red orange or green light on our ideas and tomorrow... who knowssss!!?

So far it has been amazing and I’m ecstatic I chose to come because I have taken from it, knowledge that I can apply to my life and a few really cool friends, which may I add, includes 2 professional actors 2 scientists and a writer and other mini ..CAN MY SUMMER HOLIDAY GET ANY BETTER?!!

Hayley x