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New Green Man show, AI at the BIT, and Back to (summer) school: Rising Ape Spring Update

We’ve spent the cold winter months planning and preparing (also sleeping). Now it’s time to see what the Ape is cooking in the next few months.

The Audience – 26th May, Bristol Improv Theatre

 

The show is as LED-lightful as ever

Our fantastic friends at the Bristol Improv Theatre (BIT) have supported Rising Ape since our very first event, Life on Mars in 2015. Since then, they’ve gone through huge change, buying a building and completely refurbishing it to become the UK’s first dedicated Improv Theatre!

We were honoured to be asked to be part of their first spring season and bring The Audience to the BIT this May as part of a double bill with Alastair Aitcheson ’s Incredible Playable Show. It’s certain to be a night that fans of audience participation and Black Mirror-esque dystopian sci-fi won’t want to miss.

The Incredible Playable Show + Rising Ape, £7, 26th May, Bristol Improv Theatre

Book tickets on the Bristol Improv Website

Return to Einstein’s Garden at Green Man Festival

Decisions, decisions

After the success of The Audience at last year’s Einstein’s Garden, we’re now deep into writing our new show for this year’s festival. Publish or Perish, basically the Sims with scientists, will give people the chance to control the choices of a young researcher trying to make it through the day from hell.

Blending live action role play, improv, video games and biting insight into the real world of academic research (we knew those PhD’s half the apes were embarking on would come in handy), PoP is a must see for anyone who loves any of those things we just listed. Stay tuned for updates as the process of creating this show becomes ever more fraught and stressful, until the festival itself, 17-20 August.

Read more about Publish or Perish at the Green Man Festival website

Apes go back to (summer) school

Meant to be.

This July, we’re also excited to be working with UWE to put on a night of activities for researchers attending their science communication summer school. Based around the concept Worst. Science. Festival. Ever, it’s going to be an evening of fiendish quizzing, ridiculous challenges, and bonus points for science clichés: Fun for all the faculty!

Siobhan writes for Writes

Finally, we’re very pleased to be publishing a new A-Z series from Bristol writer Siobhan Fairgreaves. Catch up on A is for Atom and B is for Black Hole, and get C sent straight to your inbox using the Follow button in the bottom righthand corner of this page;-)

Phew, that’s plenty for now. We’re also in talks about a number of other events throughout this year, so look out for details in the not too far away future. If you want to get in touch about an idea, just chuck us an email at info@rising-ape.com, or use the contact page, we would LOVE to hear from you 💯

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The Audience gets Bristolians talking with algorithms

‘Really clever concept, good fun and I really liked the way the science is woven in!’ – Audience member

‘I feel grotty’ – Another Audience member

ALIC at the Bristol Improv Theatre
ALIX meets her latest data input devi- sorry, latest colleagues. | Image: Nick Moylan

After a busy 2016, Rising Ape squeezed one more event in before the end of the year. A freezing, foggy 1st of December saw a small, boisterous crowd weathering extreme elements, limited visibility and the Conan Doyle-ish Capital D dread of it all to make it down to the Bristol Improv Theatre. There, together they became the audience for, well, The Audience.

Guided by courtroom algorithm ALIX, the Audience became shaped into a cohesive unit, passing judgement on the sentence for a dramatic court case, and getting a glimpse into what justice in the future might be like. The immersive experience aimed to get people thinking about the consequences of trusting machines with our thoughts and biases. And all through the brandishing of LED lights and making friends with a slightly sarcastic A.I.

The Audience discussion theatre bristol
“I, for one, welcome our new AI overlords” proclaims controversial, yet out of shot, audience member, to everyone’s amusement. | Image: Nick Moylan

After the interval, the energised group began a passionate discussion with a panel consisting of:

  • Dr Sabine Hauert, Lecturer in Robotics at the Bristol Robotic Laboratory
  • Andrew Charlesworth, Reader in IT & Law at the University of Bristol
  • Dr Rosie Clark, Research Associate in Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol
  • Antony Poveda, Producer for Rising Ape Collective and member of the cast.

Together the experts and audience discussed how far we are willing to trust algorithms with important decisions, personal experiences of the effectiveness of juries, and how little society is aware of the companies behind the technology we give data to. The engaging and highly productive session was filmed and we’ll be publishing the full video later in the New Year.

This production of The Audience was also incredibly valuable from our viewpoint. Learning from the performance at Green Man, we took the opportunity to tighten the script, take advantage of the new venue to really up the atmosphere (the mist certainly helped a bit there), choreograph new immersive moments, and, best of all, discover how well the performance works as a stimulus to get an audience talking with experts about these timely issues.

Want to experience The Audience for yourself? Follow us using the button below and look out for news of performances in 2017, as well as the film of the panel discussion, coming soon.

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The Audience is in session – 1st December, Bristol Improv Theatre

AudiencePromo1.png
Your voice is ‘important’ to us.

MSG FROM: Ministry of Justice PLC
SUBJECT: Have you RSVP’d?

MSG BEGINS: Dear Citizen. Fresh from being the most packed, “disturbing”, and ethically confusing interactive show of the Green Man Festival Einstein’s Garden tent, The Audience is hitting Bristol with a heady mix of mob rule, computer smart-arsery and LED lights.

In the latest immersive show from Rising Ape Collective you’ll meet ALIX, the friendly courtroom AI, and get to have your say on what society thinks is morally right and wrong.

The show will be followed by a Q&A with the writers and a panel of local researchers ready to discuss your questions on the future of AI, our legal system, and whether robots will take all our jobs.

Attendance is voluntary, yet strongly advised. Please respond to your video invite, ALIX can’t wait to meet you.

Vote Justice. MSG ENDS.

More details, and RSVP on the event page.
Tickets available at  improvthreatre.co.uk

 

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Memories made in a night of brain exploration

Last month our latest event Memory Makers took place at the At-Bristol Data Dome (the big silver ball on Millenium Square). In full dome 360 projection, we featured an exclusive look at the game Cascade and how it’s transforming what’s going on in the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s into a gaming experience like no other.

In an immersive walkthrough session we heard from researcher Jody and developer Gaz on how the hallmarks of the disease lent themselves perfectly to a game medium. The thoroughly engaged audience then asked some thoughtful questions and we got into the details of the amyloid hypothesis and the process of game development. It was, as one attendee put it, ‘informative and visually amazing!’.

The audience also got to explore more of their brains through (jelly) tissue dissection, freaky audio illusions, and the gameshow stylings of Head 2 Head – see the packed leaderboard in the pics and try to spot your score if you were there.

For us, the most positive outcome was how excited the team behind the game were about the possibilities of taking the Cascade full dome 360 projection experience to new places. Who knows, Cascade could be coming to a planetarium near you soon…

Huge thanks to Jody, Fayju Games, Ruth Murray and At-Bristol, plus our lovely volunteers for all their hard work. Thanks also to the Biochemical Society for funding the event.

And thanks to Nick Moylan for his atmospheric photos of the night. You can find more of Nick’s wonderful images on his Instagram.

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Your Choice set goes down a storm at Green Man

Last month, Rising Ape took Your Choice: The Game to a field in the heart of Green Man Festival as part of the famous Einstein’s Garden, an area of the fest dedicated to exploring science, nature and other wild ideas.

Your choice einsteins 1
We all know that one person who gets all the best cards. It’s a team game, mate, just saying.

Each day, at 2.30pm sharp, makeshift cancer research groups sat down in the Garden’s workshop dome to play the board game element of Your Choice and got to grips with choosing the direction of their research. More than 60 people get involved over the weekend, working together in their teams to make the most of their resources, beat cancer sooner and get to the top of the scoreboard. In the end, Team Maroon and Green won the comp by a single point (!) to win the prizes on offer.

Your choice einsteins 2
A representative from Team Maroon and Green accepts a prize more valuable than a Rio Gold Medal.

Before starting the weekend, we had some questions about whether Your Choice would work as a purely facilitated game, without the powerful monologue performances… And at a music festival. These questions were answered and, what’s more, we learned some new things about the game.

Question 1: Who would play it? Here was our first surprise: The audience was much more diverse than we expected, and the game worked well for everyone! We had teams of children, families, couples, people likely under the influence of some interesting substances… The most pleasant surprise was that children as young as 12 were really grasping the idea of how to play and we had a few younger than that who were into the dice rolling and gem spending. It got very competitive.

And while we thought people with a relationship with cancer research would be interested, in fact most of the teams we spoke to had little or no previous knowledge of cancer or cancer research. We got people involved by setting up an example board at the front of the workshop dome next to the high score board, and asked anyone who stopped for a moment if they wanted to play a game. It’s hard to resist the lure of a crisp deck of cards and a pile of shiny gems.

Question 2: Would people stick around? Yes. All the teams playing the game were fully engaged for the whole forty minutes of play time. Although there was an option to leave after the first 20 minute section, everyone wanted to carry on and finish the second section.

This meant some teams were engaged with the activity for nearly an hour solid, even with all the distractions available at a music festival! It was commented on by Einsteins Garden staff that it was unusual to see people stay for so long in the workshop dome and it’s great to see that, as hoped, the game can hold attention without the monologue breaks.

Question 3: How would people deal with the theme? There were several moments in games where people, parents mainly, talked to the rest of their team about the types of cancer that had occurred in their family and it was nice to see these conversations happen naturally through playing.

The leaderboard on Day 1.  By the end all these scores would be crushed.
The leaderboard on Day 1. By the end all these scores would be crushed.

And there was more food for thought. Interestingly, we had several questions about whether it was possible to buy the game at the festival, and a teacher said they would love to get hold of it for their biology class. Making the game available to a wider audience is something we will definitely be interested in exploring with CRUK.

So engaging music lovers with cancer research in a wet Welsh field? Check! Thanks to everyone who made the weekend possible, especially Will, Maddy of Einstein’s Garden and the workshop dome volunteers. We look forward to the next outing for Your Choice. Could it be in your area?

 

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Memory Makers in the Planetarium

real-brain_0

On 27th September, Rising Ape enters the At-Bristol Planetarium dome to bring you a unique journey into a truly mysterious world: Your own brain.

In partnership with Fayju Games and the University of Bath, Memory Makers will be an evening of unlikely experiences inside your mind. Come along to find out how much your brain can really remember, how easily it can be fooled, and how local researchers are trying to better understand and treat dementia.

memorymakerscascadeYou can buy tickets for one of two sessions on the night. Find out more on the At-Bristol event page.

Taking in jelly brain dissections, competitive memory games, and an exhilarating 3D preview of upcoming VR game Cascade, developed in collaboration with neuroscientists — plus a bar and the classic At-Bristol exhibits. Altogether, the evening promises to be a night you’ll definitely want to remember.

This event is funded by the Biochemical Society.

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Green Man 2016 Round Up

Running our events, sometimes you know how things will go and sometimes you just have to trust it will work. Sometimes you’ll even be surprised. Running our events in a field at a music festival? You’re guaranteed all three possibilities.

The Rising Ape team took two different interactive events to Einstein’s Garden, the magical centre of Green Man Festival, and both delivered heaps of expected and unexpected outcomes. After last year’s first foray, we really wanted to step up and push what we could offer the good festival goers of Green Man. Without too much modesty, and mainly thanks to those same excellent punters, the weekend surpassed those (un)expectations!

The Audience audience
What on future Earth is going on here?

On the Friday, The Audience took over the Omni Tent in a blaze of anticipation and mystery. The newly created theatrical experience full of smartarse AI, hand held LEDs and mob mentality was designed to connect and confuse it’s titular audience (in the best possible way). It certainly succeeded! We’ll leave off talking about what actually happens for now as we don’t want to spoil the experience too much. We’re excited to be planning more performances this autumn, however, so maybe you should come see for yourself…

Your choice einsteins 1
A member of a research group makes a bold move

And Your Choice came along for the ride as well. Our team-based experience themed on cancer research, and developed with CRUK, was transferred to a completely new style of venue, a giant dome, where it ran as a daily gaming session. It was fantastic to see the game engaging people from all ages and backgrounds over the weekend, with players taking on their different roles within research groups and being totally focused on working together to beat cancer sooner. Read more on what we learned about Your Choice here.

We really want to thank Will, Maddy, Ellen who organise Einstein’s Garden, and everyone else, sound deskers, workshop assistants, who helped us produce the events to their full potential. We look forward to working with you again next year!

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Join us in the Garden again… At Green Man Festival 2016

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 21.53.48

Woop woop! The Rising Ape is waving his favourite mango around his head which means, if we consult our English to Ape dictionary, that he is returning to Einstein’s Garden at Green Man Festival for a second year! Hooray!

What’s he doing now? Oh dear, well that’s not very mature at all. Naughty Ape. Although, apparently, those gestures do translate into the fantastic news that there will be TWO Rising Ape events at the festival this year, so even more hooray!

Yes, there’ll be two different Rising Ape experiences in the Garden for 2016: The fast-paced excitement of Your Choice: The Game, and the mysterious immersive theatre of The Audience (Oooooooooh).

Located right in the beating heart of the Festival, Einstein’s Garden is the arena of choice for those seeking weird, unlikely and downright indescribable encounters with science, scientists and people dressed up as robots claiming to be scientists.

A research group makes their first moves. Have they made the right choices?
A research group makes their first moves. Have they made the right choices?

We’re proud to be bringing two of our most progressive events yet to this special place. Stop by the workshop dome everyday to play Your Choice: The Game and try to beat the high scores of other teams of role playing cancer researchers.

Would you accept an invitation from this guy?
Would you accept an invitation to a festival from this guy?

Then make sure to RSVP for your invite to The Audience in the Omni Tent, the theatre show where you and your fellow humans will get to prove what you can do together in the potential present of our future… With glowsticks. More on that pretentious nonsense soon, promise.

TV BOT
Such fun at the fest!

All in all, it promises to be a very special weekend of music, mayhem and maybe even maths? Head here for more info on the Rising Ape shows, and all the other wonderous acts and events taking place between 18-22 August at the best festival in the country located deep in the Brecon Beacons, just past Crickhowell, where they burn a huge green man effigy on the final night and Charlotte Church is running the karaoke.

Hope to see you there (especially in the karaoke)!

Read more about the great things happening in Einstein’s Garden this summer

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Your Choice comes to Cardiff

Your Choice chapter (1)

We’re pleased to announce that Rising Ape Presents… Your Choice is coming to Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff on the 23rd of May!

Join us in this amazing venue to hear the stories of people involved in clinical trials and create your own story by playing as a team of researchers trying to advance our knowledge of cancer.

We’ve been working on improving the Your Choice experience for this next event so expect new elements, even if you’ve been before. To get an idea of what you’re in for, read the blog on the first performance in Bristol.

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

Book tickets on the Chapter site

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Cancer research and stories in unlikely places – Your Choice in Bristol

Listen below to Judys take on keeping her family and friends lighthearted

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.

A research group makes their first moves. Have they made the right choices?
A research group makes their first moves. Have they made the right choices?

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.

A fluffy handmade cancer cell attached to the threads of clinical trials stories disappearing into the theatre
A fluffy handmade cancer cell attached to the threads of clinical trials stories disappearing into the theatre

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 below to Judys take on keeping her family and friends lighthearted
“You can have fun through it all as well. I mean, I think you’ve got to, you know, just think positively… I mean, I’d rather people react like that than feel sorry for me. I’d rather make a joke of it, because it makes it easier for them.”

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.

The full board of the first half. Research cards, galore!
The blue board of the first half. Research cards, galore!

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 info@rising-ape.com, we’d love to hear from you.

The Rising Ape Team


Find out about the research being done at CRUK Cardiff here

See what’s coming up next at the Bristol Improv Theatre here