‘Is Taylor Swift really swift?’ With this crowd-sourced question pulled from a top hat, the audience of Play This Show! loaded up Publish or Perish and took control of luckless PhD student, Tom, to start their journey into the world of fantasy academia.
As ever, the course of good research never did run smooth. Together, the audience faced down nagging undergraduates, impossible deadlines, shadowy senior management figures, office equipment come to life, and overcame them all. They drank coffee, they let down their friends, they gained and (mainly) lost health, they even became a fantastic machine for measuring cow manure. They survived. Just.
I loved being able to vote on the outcomes and the actors’ amazing ability to make things up on the spot. Also I’ve never laughed so much for so long… (the show) really brought an audience of strangers together in a way that I didn’t think was possible!
– Jennie, audience member and player
Thanks to everyone for coming and being such willing participants of this weird, hard-to-describe show. Putting you in control of the action can feel terrifying so we were genuinely blown away by the generous response and the imagination you demonstrated throughout. Huge thanks also to Alistair Aitcheson and his Incredible Playable Show in the second half- Who knew we’d all enjoy becoming supermarket managers so much?
Enjoy the pictures of the nonsense below (thanks to James Pepper for the photography) and look out for the next chance to ‘Play This Show’!
We’re teaming up with award-winning game developer Alistair Aitcheson to bring you Play This Show, a night of playable and improvised comedy featuring two shows like nothing else on stage- well, like nothing else on a Thursday night in April anyway.
Publish or Perish is the choose-your-own-adventure show where the whole audience gets to play together.
Alongside your friends, you’ll take control of a young scientist trying to make it through the strangest day of their life, guided by the all-knowing game master.
Mashing up daft songs, live action role play, deadly punning photocopiers, a lab full of improvisers and an unhealthy dose of audience suggestions, surviving the sci-fantasy world of Publish or Perish ultimately depends on your choices – democracy taken to the next level!
After a fantastic couple of shows at Green Man Festival 2017, we’re really excited to be bringing this show to a hometown audience at the brilliant Bristol Improv Theatre. And if you caught it last year, there’ll be new cast members, new games and even more pop culture surprises to challenge your spur of the moment decision making skills.
The Incredible Playable Show
Created by game developer Alistair Aitcheson, The Incredible Playable Show is an interactive video game comedy show where you, the audience, take to the stage!
Become human buttons, take on the Power Rangers, zap each other with barcode scanners, and play Pac-Man using inflatable toys. Or sit back, and watch your friends literally become cogs in a hilarious machine!
Plasticine defeats lava. But only if it’s placed correctly. Just one of the lessons the intrepid volcanologists for the evening took home after enjoying Rising Ape Presents… Eruption for this year’s Earth Science Week.
On Monday 9th October eight teams entered the the Mt Risuvius Volcano Observatory (read: Bristol Improv Theatre) with the goal of securing a lucrative imaginary contract to take it over. Their task? To defend the nearby town from a fiery doom, through the tried-and-tested disciplines of disaster planning and pub quiz.
First, the teams picked a suitably volcanic name, with bonus/pity points going to Igneous Ramuses and Magma Mates. Then the quiz began in earnest. Points were awarded for knowing the Hawaiian word for poo (uli), where volcanos keep their trophies (the mantle piece) and avoiding periodic lava flows into the observatory by scrambling off the floor.
After the interval, a news report announced that Mt Risivius was near to erupting. The teams then had to plan how they would spend the town’s budget on defending the population and infrastructure. Would they invest in early warning systems? Or blow it all on concrete (read: plasticine) barriers to divert the destruction?
And then it happened, ERUPTION! The teams quickly constructed their defenses on a highly accurate model of Mt Risuvius. As the washing up bubbles (read: terrifying lava) flowed to much excitement, the teams’ defenses were put to the test and buildings were spared or sacrificed. But who had made the best use of their scant resources? Who out of these eight teams of bold Monday night adventurers had done the most to save the town?
As the damage was assessed and the scores tallied, it was clear there was only one winning team: Ring of Fire! Unbelievably, in an unfair world and a negatively rigged game, they’d achieved a positive score!
The night ended with an absorbing talk from local researcher, Ailsa Naismith of the University of Bristol. Ailsa shared stories of her travels to volcanic regions in South America and the amazing people she’d met who had made volcanoes their home. It was fascinating to hear how these people felt ownership, and even friendliness, towards their unpredictable neighbours.
We’d like to thank everyone who came to Eruption and made it such fun. Your competitiveness, creativity and commitment to the world of Mt Risuvius was truly inspiring. We hope to see you all at the next event.
Rising Ape Presents… Eruption was made possible by funding from the Geological Society as part of Earth Science Week 2017.
Rising Ape return to the Bristol Improv Theatre with a real pa-lava of a pub quiz… On Monday 9th October, the little town of Rising Apeton will be under threat from volcanic destruction, and only the mighty power of quiz can save it!
First, your team will prove your vulcan knowledge (or lack thereof) in challenging themed (and not-so-themed) rounds. Then, you’ll be tasked with building the defences of the town itself, will your team hold off the fizzing lava flow?
The night ends with local earth science researcher, Alisa Nailsmith, spilling the secrets of her incandescent life studying volcanoes in Guatemala and the people living in their shadows.
So come down the BIT with your friends (or join a team on the night), win some silly prizes and take up the ‘mantle’ of volcanic defender for the evening!
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
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the contact page, we would LOVE to hear from you 💯
‘Really clever concept, good fun and I really liked the way the science is woven in!’ – Audience member
‘I feel grotty’ – Another Audience member
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.
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.
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.
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.