The Enlightenment Café

Old Vic Tunnels, London

‘An unmissable night of entertainment, intrigue, and debate – with a touch of education snuck in when you aren’t looking.’ – New Scientist

 

Our first production in the Enlightenment Cafe series. Often referred to as “a mixture of TEDtalks and Secret Cinema” this production invited the audience to explore the depths of the Old Vic Tunnels, where they discovered a Victorian world for aesthetes, geeks, bon-viveurs and enquiring minds. They did the rounds at a Victorian Psychiatric Clinic, were schooled in the science of love at the Institute of Victorian Dating Etiquette, experimented with the inebriating alchemy of Gin Distillation and flaunted their wits in a Speed Debating Tournament. Deeper in to the tunnels still, they discovered a series of laboratories and dens where the performance of wild and wonderful experiments could be observed.

 

Collaborators incuded:

Quentin Cooper – Presenter of BBC Radio 4′s The Material World, the UK’s most listened to science programme
Joanne Baker – Author of ’50 Universe Ideas You Really Need To Know’ and Astrophysicist
Claire Benson – Fire and Explosions Scientist
Stuart Clark – Author of the ‘Sky’s Dark Labyrinth’ series and Astronomer
Kathryn Harkup – Chemist, Vampirologist and Poison Scientist
Tim McInerny – Psychiatrist and adviser on Bedlam at the Globe
Alex Bellos – Author of ‘Adventures in Numberland’ and Mathematician
Andy Holding – Molecular Biologist and Skeptics in The Pub regular
Helen Keen – Comedian and Space Enthusiast
Paolo Viscardi – Natural History Curator and Mermaid Anatomist
Andy Holding – Molecular Biologist and Skeptics in The Pub regular
Helen Keen – Comedian and Space Enthusiast
Paolo Viscardi – Natural History Curator and Mermaid Anatomist
Perhaps Contraption – An astonishing, twisted brass, art punk marching band
Les Moineaux de Paris – A Quartet performing French chansons

 

Review:

 

New Scientist

 

“We have three melancholics here,” says a Victorian gentleman to his alchemist colleague as I sit, freshly diagnosed, in a ‘gin distillery’ buried within the Old Vic Tunnels beneath London’s Waterloo. Feeling much better, I wander through the rabbit warren of tunnels, passing a makeshift theatre and a series of dimly lit rooms, each with its own scientist in residence, revealing the answers to questions you never knew you had. In one, I’m treated to details of some incredibly gruesome poisons and learn never to drink cider from a pewter tankard (the combination produces toxic lead acetate). In another I discover I’m not too bad at the Victorian pastime of mathematical puzzles. But these drop-in sessions are just one part of the Café. Soon I’m ushered into psychiatrist Tim McInerny’s office. Here, myself and five other “medical students” are guided through the examination of a patient from the Bethlem Hospital (played convincingly by one of the Café’s actors). Between them they give a stark insight into the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in the 1800s…The beauty of the event is the atmosphere – you truly believe you’ve stepped into another time; a world full of things you’re unlikely to see again…an unmissable night of entertainment, intrigue, and debate – with a touch of education snuck in when you aren’t looking.

 

Rebecca Hill

 

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