Once again, we’re excited to be collaborating with the Bristol Improv Theatre and the Cardiff Cancer Research UK Centre. Most of all, we’re excited for you to try competitive cancer research for yourself. So grab your usual pub quiz team, or join another friendly group on the night, and we’ll see you there!
Rising Ape Presents… Your Choice / Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff / 7.30pm 23.05.2016
Cancer research is done all over the world. Sometimes even in Bristol’s theatres…
Back in January, a lovely audience flooded into a temporary CRUK-funded research centre in the basement of the Polish Ex-Service Mens’ Club, otherwise known as the Bristol Improv Theatre.
There, they donned white lab coats and settled down in their teams, dubbed ‘research groups’, for the evening. Some teams had come together and others were made with quick introductions to new ‘colleagues’. Everyone was there to be part of the first Rising Ape Presents… Your Choice, a night of games and theatre based on the choices people make in cancer research.
Throughout the evening there was high stakes dice rolling and tough decisions, there were moving verbatim performances of interviews with patients, there were fluffy and colourful cancerous cells. And there were even prizes.
But before all of that the new research groups sat down at their tables, got acquainted and turned to the first order of business before starting to play the game: drawing cards and finding out who in their varied team they were and what special skills they each had.
“I’m a professor, I get double points! We get points?”
“I’m an interdisciplinary researcher, I can do research in any field. Sounds awesome.”
“I’m an undergraduate… And none of the research in my hand is worth any points? That’s not fair!”
“We might need to get your research to the professor, then”
The groups were learning fast. They were then told by the disembodied, but all knowing, Voice of Progress that their task was to travel around the game board and use their limited resources to do as much research as possible. The end goal? Maximise their science reputation points to come ahead of the other teams.
Eagerly, the groups set to their task, racing to the lab spaces on the board. Once there, they were able to splurge their grant money (in the shape of shiny gems) to draw research cards, and then cross their fingers that they could roll a high enough number to allow them to acquire the treatment or benefit on the card, along with its precious science points. Would they spend their money equally on all the possible areas? Or would they focus their efforts on New Treatments, and ignore Better Understanding of Cancer? Tough choices had to be made.
“Publication rejected? Oh no, we’ve lost ten points!”
“Discard a treatment card? What should we lose? Improved Chemotherapy, or Prevention of Side Effects?”
Smarter teams made the most of the ability to meet up on the board to trade cards. Thinking tactically and collaboratively helped these teams overcome what fate had dealt them. Using each individual’s skills for the greater good was key to success and more than one team managed to put all the blame on the Undergraduate or have the Fundraiser working hard to gain gems as fast as possible from the centre of the board.
As time to use their grants ran out, the groups moved faster and faster around the board, rolling, swapping and chatting as they went. All too soon time was up: the dice fell silent, the lights dimmed and the first monologue began.
“You’re taking all that information in, ‘I’ve got cancer. I‘ve got an aggressive form of breast cancer. And now you’re giving me options? Three weeks ago I was dancing on the tables in Benidorm!’”
Listen to the clip above to hear Research Nurse Jane talk about the moment patients find out about a clinical trial.
Jane works at Velindre Cancer Centre and her story highlighted that even when a choice to be part of a trial may be logical, people have strong personal emotions that have to be taken into account.
After Jane’s monologue the research groups broke out for drinks and discussion about their experiences of the first half. Awaiting the teams in the bar was the chance to make their very own cell, not out of DNA and proteins, but from brightly coloured wool and card.
Everyone jumped straight to it, wrapping wool around and around like their imaginary grant funding relied on it. There were a couple of different methods available, allowing for either carefully made uniform cells to form, or fast growing scrappy blobs, calling to mind a cancerous growth. An acute scissors shortage was overcome to finish them all off and they were hung up on the threads around the theatre by tags containing peoples’ thoughts on cancer research after the first half.
After sitting down for the second half, the lights dimmed again and we heard the story of Elise, a clinical trials patient taking part in research at Velindre, and her thoughts on the choices she made.
The fact that I’d have to come in and have Herceptin anyway, well it tied in with that, because I’d have to come in every three weeks, well I might as well have the trial, because I’d be here anyway.
Listen to the clip above to hear Elise explain why being part of her trial made sense for her.
After the monologue, the research groups were faced with a completely new, red-themed board. On it were the parts of the body where cancers are most often diagnosed. The Voice of Progress again boomed through the room and introduced the rules for the second half: “Move. Kill. Diagnose.” The overall aim? To use all the research and treatment cards the teams had collected in the first half to kill as many cancer cells as possible in 20 minutes.
With each move to a space the researchers could kill cancerous cells there, but with each dice roll they diagnosed more. Who could clear out cancer from whole areas of the body, and who would be overwhelmed? The teams again had to make the most of their unique abilities, ensure they had the right cards in the hands of the right professions and coordinate their movement cleverly around the board.
Some of the teams came into their own in this round, focusing fully on their task and racking up piles of red cancer cells by the roll. With just a minute to go, the activity in the room was at fever pitch, move to a space, roll to kill, roll to diagnose. A 5 second countdown echoed around the room and then the lights dimmed for the final time, coming up on the third performance of the night: Judy, a patient in a clinical trial at Velindre.
Listen to how Judy keeps her friends and family lighthearted through her clinical trial treatments.
After Judy’s story (and while the scores were totalled) the audience heard from Helen Frost, CRUK Research Engagement Manager. Her words brought home the real impact on peoples’ lives from the huge advances in cancer treatments and the central importance of clinical trials to this success. Then with the scores counted, checked, found to be wrong, and then rechecked… Finally, the first ever winners of Your Choice were announced…
To much applause, Team NRR (Not Real Researchers) were pronounced the the evening’s champions! Thanks to a dominant second round performance and a mightily impressive score of 160-odd, NRR narrowly beat their nearest rival research groups. For their efforts they picked up an entire carrier bag of prizes sourced from local CRUK shops, including snazzy branded badges and a portable version of teenage sleepover classic Twister. Understandably, they were overjoyed.
So with the winners crowned, the actors’ bows taken and an evaluation form filled in by each audience member, the night came to a close. If you were there, we hope you enjoyed it.
Looking back, our aim for this project was simple to state, more challenging to pull off: Engage the audience actively with cancer research and make sure they have a good time doing it. From the start we knew we wanted the audience to hear the real stories of people involved in clinical trials and leave with an awareness of what choices are being made everyday by the thousands of people involved in cancer research, from academic researchers to patients to nurses. We felt a team-based board game, literally built around their real words, would prove a powerful way to for the audience to connect with this subject.
Making this actually happen took four months, multiple journeys to Wales, many late night Slack updates, and countless team pow-wows at Bristol’s Watershed. But, thanks to the efforts of amazing patients, dedicated CRUK staff, the lovely Bristol Improv Theatre, some truly incredible actors, and a wonderful, enthusiastic audience, happen, it did. From our own side, we have learned a huge amount from the experience, so thank you, everyone.
What’s next? Already, there are plans taking shape to take Your Choice to new places and in new directions. We’re extremely excited about what’s happening so keep an eye out for announcements here in the not-at-all-distant future. And, in the meantime, if you have any feedback thoughts on the above, or new ideas that you’d like to tell us about, drop us a comment below or email email@example.com, we’d love to hear from you.
Your Choice is a unique night that combines moving performances of personal clinical trial stories with challenging role play games that put you and your team in the hotseats of cancer researchers.
Rising Ape Collective, in collaboration with Cancer Research UK, have been busily gathering the stories of the people closest to clinical trials — cancer patients, researchers and nurses — so you can experience them for yourself. And there’ll be prizes!
Why do clinical trials matter?
One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. Whether you develop it yourself, or it takes hold of someone close, it’s a sad reality we all must face.
But, crucially, the future is brightening all the time. Half of people diagnosed with cancer today will survive, and that’s down to the work of countless scientists, doctors and nurses who tirelessly lead the fight against cancer. But the new treatments they develop wouldn’t be possible without the patients who choose to participate in vital clinical trials.
Clinical trials provide the evidence to drive forward research into treatments for cancer by discovering which therapies work best. By choosing to opt in to a trial, patients choose to further our collective knowledge of cancer, so we can beat it sooner.
Your Choice is all about celebrating the extraordinary contributions of these everyday people. Come down with your team to the Bristol Improv Theatre and discover the choices everyone is making about cancer.
Doors open at 7.30pm. Tickets are £5-£7. Follow the link below to book yours in advance:
This summerCancer Research UK Cardiff approached Rising Ape Collective and asked if we’d like to develop an immersive event based around clinical trials and patient involvement. After successful initial discussions, planning and research, we are very pleased to now start shouting about it!
In January, Rising Ape and the Bristol Improv Theatre will host an evening that gets you, our audience, right in the shoes of the people making clinical trials and cancer research happen. Like all our events it will be audience-centred and engaging as hell. But this particular subject means we get the chance to try something even more human, moving and relatable.
It can be easy to take for granted the impact cancer research has had on our world, especially if you’re lucky enough to lack personal experience of this impact. In the seventies, 1 in 4 people diagnosed with cancer died. Over the last 40 years, thanks to the work done by the people of organisations like Cancer Research UK, survival rates have doubled. This astonishing progress would not be possible without the thousands of real people, patients included, from all backgrounds who come together to make it happen through projects like clinical trials. These people continue to work together every day and it’s their contributions we want you to experience.
For all it’s success, cancer research is an area that can seem every bit as complex, confusing and, let’s face it, as scary, to most of us as the diseases it’s working to understand and combat. How are new drugs discovered? Who decides what treatments patients get? How do we know what works? It may not sound like the obvious choice for the next Rising Ape Presents…
But we’re excited.
We’re excited because we get to highlight the human stories behind clinical trials: the place where scientists, nurses, doctors, and (most of all) patients work together to beat cancer sooner.
We’re excited to bring together a whole medley of people, patients, performers, researchers, game makers and others, to forge new conversations and understandings in an effort to create something unique.
We’re excited to collaborate with both the Bristol Improv Theatre and Cancer Research UK to make this possible. The first is an old friend we are loving working more closely with, and the second is a renowned organisation of committed and passionate people that have given us the opportunity to push ourselves in new ways.
And we’re beyond excited for you to be a part of it, whether in Bristol or, who knows, even beyond?
So look out for production updates/creative tantrums/over-excitement here on the site and @RisingApeTweets, @CRUKCardiff and www.improvtheatre.net and keep the end of January as free as Willy when he soars over that Canadian sea wall, thrashing his big tail. Rising Ape, BIT and Cancer Research UK will be waiting for you.
We made it back. Thanks to the Rising Ape Space Agency we have returned from Mars and finished our thorough debrief with the professional medical staff here at RASA Mission Control in Bristol. But the memories of our time with you Martian colonists will stay with us, at least until the same time next year.
In total eight teams signed up to compete in the first ever gameshow held on Mars, including Superstars, Team Uranus, Space Oddity, and Team Placenta. The prize? A luxury hamper containing precious bonus rations of ice-cream (freeze dried), a foil blanket for the cold Martian night, and an extra regulation RASA crew t-shirt. The be-tophatted host, James Riley, introduced his two android helpers, A-TON and E-STEL, and the serenest super computer this side of Orion, DAVIDBOT 3000, and then the games were afoot.
Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, Ash, our engineer, and a veteran of a simulated Mars mission who helped us devise the rounds was unable to attend the festival at the last moment. Understandably, these sorts of things can happen in space missions, and it gave us an opportunity to practice an important skill for all astronauts to have: improvisation.
Into the breach stepped Zoe of the National Space Centre, who with minimal (read: no) rehearsal delivered three motivating speeches throughout the show on the importance of Teamwork, Communication and Psychological Understanding to a successful space mission. You colonists made our guest very welcome and there were loud cheers for her inspiring words.
Round 1 was all about Teamwork. It saw two teams race against the clock to navigate a giant exposed wire that formed part of the hab’s airlock system. A steady hand and excellent coordination between team members was required to succeed. Amazingly, both teams completed the challenge in the time allowed, but due to touching less exposed wires, Team Uranus made it through to the final.
In the second round, Communication, two teams engaged in a Charades-off based around various space-related titles in pop culture. Incredibly this proved even more difficult than on a Christmas evening after too many sherries when your nan has to act out Shawshank Redemption. Perhaps the pressure of the crowd, or the weight of the potential prize was weighing on the colonist’s minds, but in the end Space Oddity qualified despite only getting two film titles correct! Special mention must be made for their rivals, Team Placenta, who managed to describe Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus for their only correct answer. using only frantic pointing. The colony administration salutes your dedication!
For the third qualification round, the teams had to guess the most popular answers to the Colony-wide survey that was distributed shortly before the weekend. The Colony Administration would like to thank all who volunteered their personal psychological data, and to let those who selected ‘Lighthouse Family – Lost in Space’ know that they are being closely monitored.
In an extremely tense round, the young whippersnappers of Superstars came from behind to steal the win from Team Uranus, after correctly deciding that most Colonists would want to call their parents for their annual phonecall (aww, you softies). Full results of the survey will be available soon for those who really want to know what the Colony’s favourite ice-cream (freeze dried) flavour is. Hint: it’s not ‘Chorizo’.
And so the final round was upon us. At this point the downpour was really trying to make sure everyone believed there was liquid H20 on Mars which will have come as welcome news to those early 21st Century rovers that we saw gathering dust out on the plains. The three qualified teams remained resolute and threw themselves into the final challenge. Tasked with carrying multiple radioactive pellets all the way around Einstein’s Garden, using only a custom made hand-held safety transporter, which only looked a bit like a big spoon covered in foil and hazard tape, before throwing them into the Colony furnace from a safe distance to save the habitat’s rapidly shutting down life-support system…. Well, let’s just say they nailed it.
In the end, Team Uranus emerged victorious, out throwing the others by some margin, and claiming the extra rations as their prize. Like true Colony comrades they immediately shared the spoils with the remaining teams, in a scene which nearly, nearly brought a virtual tear to DAVIDBOT 3000’s stoic pixels. As if in awe of what it had just witnessed, at this point the rain finally stopped.
We’d like to thank Maddy for letting us on the Solar Stage for this escapade, Jen and the crew of Einstein’s Garden for solving our problems and making us feel so welcome, Ash and Zoe for their contributions to the show and, most of all, the eight teams of brave colonists who stuck it out through the deluge and competed with such admirable gusto. The future of Martian colonies looks safe in your hands.
And so, as the lights of the vast domed Green Man festival habitat went down, we tidied away the set and DAVIDBOT 3000, before celebrating the success of the first ever gameshow on Mars by dancing around to some very fine musical acts. Circulating rumours of the white suited RASA team being repeatedly mistaken for the band Super Furry Animals and engaging in 5am sing-alongs with Charlotte Church can be neither confirmed, nor denied….
It’s fair to say that ‘Rising Ape Presents… Eruption!’ was a blast. You became vulcanologists for the evening, vulcanologists who knew a surprising amount about the career of Pierce Brosnan. Using your in-depth knowledge of lava flows, increasing pH levels and the correct pronunciation of Ejyafjallajokull you came to the aid of the perilously located town of Rising Apeton. You were then regaled by researcher Nicky Young and her tales of studying Hawaiian volcanoes and dodging Aberdeenian seagulls. Thank you once again for making it a fantastic evening (and some of the most tortuous quiz team names ever imagined)!
There was just one problem. The next day, when your work colleagues asked what you did the night before, they probably didn’t believe you, it all sounded so incredible. That’s where we can help.
Please enjoy the video evidence of your heroics in our highlights reel below, and show those doubting friends of yours what they missed out on. We hope you like it.
Finally, a massive cheers to the highly professional crew of Raw Frames for making the film. We can heartily recommend them to anyone looking for a video of their event.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, other Unidentified Life Forms of every gender dimension. The Rising Ape Space Agency is gearing up for its second trip to the Red Planet, this time with our friends at the legendary Einstein’s Garden of Green Man Festival, 20-23 August!
It’s your first day on Martian Colony #1, and definitely not a field in the gorgeous Brecon Beacons. As you wipe the hyper-sleep from your eyes, you stare around the landing module and see your teammates. You remember the last thing that the Rising Ape Space Agency Mission Control said before you left: “There’s going to be some strange people waiting for you when you land. We sent them up first but they may have gone rogue. They’re probably going to try and make you do a ridiculous Mars-themed competition. Just go with it. Humour their dust-addled minds.” You blink and take your first steps on the Red Planet. ‘First to wake up! 10 points!’ a voice shouts from nearby. Your life on Mars has begun…
So come down to the Festival Habitat Module, or ‘Solar Stage’, on Saturday 21st August with the rest of your plucky team. You’ll need to prove yourselves up to the task of settling Mars on a gameshow for the whole crowd that’s so out of this world, it’s made it to the next!
Fresh off the rocket is our newest recruit and resident Mars expert, Ashley Dove-Jay, a space engineer (best job title ever!). Ash’s work is wide-ranging. In the last year he has developed radiation mitigation strategies for astronauts in deep-space with Inspiration Mars; advised senior NASA figures on strategies for protecting civilisation from the effects of a solar super-storm; written several papers for his Ph.D. regarding the development of future ‘green’ aircraft morphing wing technologies; and has conducted a solo-hiking expedition through the high-arctic archipelago of Svalbard, conducting biological research on floral pollinators. Phew, we hope he has some energy left by August.
He has also commanded a two-week long simulated Mars mission in Utah. This experience should stand him in good stead for what lies in store after joining our new Life on Mars!
More details to follow…
Einstein’s Garden is an essential, cherished part of Green Man Festival, where you can explore the far flung reaches of your imagination with over 100 jaw-dropping performances, from live comedy, music and theatre to walks, talks and interactive installations – all set across three sustainably powered stages.
Nestled among the leafy arbors and fragrant rosebeds at the heart of the beautiful Green Man site, Einstein’s Garden is the perfect place to cultivate your curiosity and indulge your creative passions. You won’t find anything quite like it at any other UK festival!
“Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.”– Terry Pratchett
It was a torrential summer’s day in Bristol last year. James and I were taking three hours, two coffees, three pubs and five pints to trawl our minds/phones for the name of the place where you’re reading this now.
It was tough. We felt we had a strong idea and a clear aim: to make supposedly lofty, out of reach thinking and research a topic for every day conversation. But we didn’t have a name. And the name was important; it had to sum up our goals for this venture, to be catchy, humble, aspirational. Many potentials were brought up from the depths of our misremembering minds and the literary internet: ‘Cortex Vortex’, ‘Mind Smash’, ‘TEDISDEAD’, but nothing was sticking, nothing fitted properly.
Then, around about the fourth pint, the marvellous Terry Pratchett spoke to us. Sadly, not in person, but rather in the form of a wikiquotes page, somewhere just beyond Nietszche, and we listened.
*reads above quote* ‘…so why not just ‘Rising Ape?’
‘Hmmm. That could work.’
‘Rising Ape’ wasn’t immediately hailed as our saviour, and a few more dodgy titles were to be offered up for debate before the final decison was made. Even the unlikely ‘Cortex Vortex’ had a late surge of support (James still calls us this in his head). But we kept coming back to it: ‘Rising Ape’. Terry had spoken, and we had listened.
My personal connection to Terry goes back much further than the screen of my old smartphone. For me, and many others, he and his writing were there at the turning of my adolescence when I needed them most. The stories of Discworld, and other worlds, helped immeasurably with being a slightly bullied kid finding their way out of the comfort of my little primary and into the bizarre realities of high school. There too, there were collections of strange races, countless arcane rituals and baffling social bureaucracies to navigate.
Crucially, his stories were not solely escapes (from what was, objectively, not that rough of a time), but much more like incredibly inventive lessons in what was possible in this life. You could be kind, funny, and courageous through struggles and hardships, not because you were a special snowflake and everyone else was stupid and horrid, but because that was what being human should be about. Terry spoke to me, and I couldn’t stop listening.
Terry also said:
“Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can. Of course, I could be wrong.”
The last part there deftly illustrates how he could never avoid mixing his questioning-thinking with his story-thinking. Indeed, he actively pursued this aim. His writing dazzles you with curiosity, character, wit, tension, humanity, wisdom, beauty, tragedy, everything everythingeverything… and puns! In our small way, that generous spirit is something we have tried to take to heart at Rising Ape, and we believe that stories and imagination can be a powerful way to deal with communicating in “a language originally designed to tell other monkeys where the ripe fruit is.” Yes, Tezza again. Cheers!
Please forgive the over-quoting. It seems that for every concept there is a Pratchettism. As for that first quote at the top, well there is, of course, nothing new under the big ball of plasma in the sky. Variations on the ‘rising ape/falling angel’ theme go back at least as far back as Robert Ardrey and it is certainly something that Terry must have picked up from elsewhere. I like Terry’s version best, though. As he has it, being a rising ape is knowing the importance of story, of reflection, and of hope. It’s the knowing of what we are and still wanting more.
I’ll leave you with the fuller extract around the quote that inspired us. It is, aptly, the middle of a conversation with Death. Please read it, it’s so good it gives me chills. And then go and read everything he ever wrote, even if you already have. The joy of writing, and of books, is that they remain. Once inked and read, their ideas cannot really be taken away. I am so grateful that others will always be able to learn from and enjoy what Terry Pratchett created in this world. Wherever he is now, I’m certain that Terry is still speaking, and we’ll always be listening.
“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
“They’re not the same at all!”
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”
Last month we welcomed 40 brave amateur spelunkers into the bat cave recently discovered in the basement of the Bristol Improv Theatre. Not only did you become experts in identifying cuddly rubber bats but you also kindly filled out our evaluations and scrawled on our graffiti boards. Here is what you thought: