Science and the theatre rarely intersect, the lab making an unlikely subject for the stage, so the story of uber-scientist Franz Henrik Schulz’s spectacular fall from grace provided great entertainment. A chance meeting with David Duchovny in Canada planted the seed that eventually grew in to Plastic, a very funny examination of the ethics and accountability of science journalism. The story was inspired by German physicist Jan Henrik Schön – who made waves nearly twenty years ago with exciting research into organic conductors that was later discredited.
Plastic follows the Schön story closely, but it is relayed in a hyperreal style that parodies the science world to better expose Schulz’s hubris, which grows as his work becomes more widely published. Schulz (Nick Bartlett) becomes a star in the science world, his work goes from strength to strength and he is continually published as a result, his colleagues alternate between admiration and envy. By the play’s end, however, his scientific promises are a seduction and become increasingly extravagant: his science, he tells his audience, will save humanity, even conquer death. He is part charlatan part politician, using hyperbolic promises to attract support, promises that he has no way of keeping.
Eventually, the final act of discrediting Schulz gets ugly and he retaliates by betraying the journalist who exposes him. When under attack he forms a low and cowardly counter-attack, propelled by fear and desperately scared of losing face.
Performances by the ensemble were impressive and they delivered the surreal sounding dialogue with great composure, no small feat given the absurdity of some of the dialogue. Norman Gruber (Douglas Niebling), the leader of the lab where Schulz works, is a highlight with his android-like detail to further place the science lab out of the realm of the ordinary. Ordinary fear and extraordinary ego ultimately prove to be the catalyst for the undoing of Schulz.
Must see theatre, Plastic is presented by Bodysnatchers and is on at the Old 505 Theatre until 18 November, for more information and tickets see: https://old505theatre.com/shows/plastic-1480215766.html
Featuring: Nick Bartlett, Hannah Goodwin, Harry McGee, Douglas Niebling and Michelle Ny.
Creative/Tech Team: Mark Rogers (writer), Sanja Simic (director), Jennifer Medway (dramaturg), Frankie Clarke (lighting design), Liam Halliwell (sound design), Sanja Simic & Mark Rogers (set design), Sanja Simic (costume design), Carly Young (marketing & publicity & photography), Carlee Heise (stage management & operator).