Wit's End Theatre's production, Science Inaction: A Love Story, doesn't shy away from laughs or scientific theories. by Veronica Simmonds
"Funny theatre gets short shrift sometimes," Griffin McInnes says as he sits in the depths of the King's College Pit. Beside him, a wall of televisions looms large as the centrepiece of McInnes' latest creation, Science Inaction: A Love Story. "People don't take it seriously and it should be taken very very very seriously."
Produced and performed by Wit's End Theatre, Science Inaction will be mounted at The Bus Stop Theatre from Thursday, June 28 to Sunday, July 1. And it will be seriously funny.
It's so serious, in fact, that before it opens at The Bus Stop it will be performed as part of the ninth Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science hosted by Dalhousie University, the University of King's College and the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science.
If that's not serious I don't know what is.
"A big part of this show is breaking down reality versus expectations," McInnes says. "It's a very anachronistic look at Bruno Latour who was a philosopher and anthropologist [and] is still alive but was very active in the '80s and '90s during what was called the science wars, when there were a lot of sociologists, anthropologists and philosophers who were looking at science and scientific facts and a lot of scientists were saying, well, 'Who are you to look at our work?'"
So the show will be riffing off of this contentious academic moment but Liz Johnston---co-founder of Wit's End, who stars alongside Lewis Wynne-Jones---explains that though the show deals with these scientific themes, it is at heart a love story.
"Basically it's just two people who are attracted to each other and find what the other person has to say interesting but there's times when they just don't mesh. It's funny."
Those two people are Bruno, a doctoral candidate played by Wynne-Jones and Donna, an amphibian neurobiologist who has a life-long infatuation with television, played by Johnston. Donna's TV obsession plays itself out in a number of ways with the play itself taking on various televisual tropes.
"She has an obsession with TV that she's had since she was a kid," Johnston says. "I think it's really to do with the fact that television episodes and whole series tend to follow a very specific ordered progression and a lot of the show is about her trying to force her life into these same patterns but it hasn't really worked out."
This tension between structure and absurdity, science and art, reality and surreality weaves through the production in thought provoking and giggle-inducing ways.
And that's the point. After graduating from King's a year ago, McInnes and Johnston birthed the Wit's End Theatre Company as an antidote to what they saw as a malady in the Halifax theatre scene.
"We decided to make Wit's End Theatre with the mandate to make funny theatre in Halifax because we've sort of found that there's not enough of it." McInnes explains. "There's some stand-up comedy, there's some sketch...but there's no funny theatre being done."
So they're doing it. Science Inaction will be their fourth production and it's clear that they have a lot of fun and laughs. But McInnes reiterates that it's a serious undertaking. "We love the idea of being able to promote laughter for laughter's sake but at the same time we want to sort of champion laughter as something that is just as artistically, intellectually and emotionally important as any other kind of theatre."