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Unity show fuses theatre and science

EXETER Northcott Theatre has announced the regional tour for Beyond My Control – the first production created from a new collaboration between the theatre and Exeter university academics which opens at Unity, Liverpool on 30 January ahead of performances in Lincoln, London, Exeter, Swindon and Aberystwyth.

The production – part game show, part improvised drama, part maths puzzle – aims to shed fresh light on epilepsy and pioneering research being undertaken at Exeter University which could revolutionize global diagnostic procedures.

Improvised scenes take audiences through the characteristics of the brain to explain how seizures occur alongside testimonies from those living with the condition.

Following an intense period of research and development, a première at the Northcott last March won praise for providing a funny, engaging and meaningful reflection on lived experience of epilepsy.

Northcott Artistic Director Paul Jepson, who devised the show in collaboration with Professor of Biomedical Modelling John Terry, said: “It was wonderful to imagine a route to performance based on a new set of rules.

Beyond My Control offers a liberating opportunity to engage creativity with a mathematician’s erudite modelling.”

Professor Terry added: “I really hope we can advance the public’s understanding of what it means to have epilepsy and the role that mathematics can have in understanding the condition.”

This is the first production created under the IMPACT programme, a new partnership between the Northcott theatre and the university, neighbours on the Streatham campus in Exeter.

The collaboration, which began in 2016, unites academics and theatrical practitioners to explore an idea or piece of research as a stimulus for creative work.

The Northcott’s role is to curate the programmes, moving workshopped ideas into commissioned works and ultimately full productions, bringing the work to a national audience.

Other projects, covering broad topics such as dementia, are already in the pipeline.

Beyond My Control drew inspiration from ground-breaking research which has revealed differences in the way that distant regions of the brain connect with each other and how these differences may lead to the generation of seizures.

These connections are represented dramatically on stage through the theatrical model of a family in dispute and agreement.

The collaborative team of researchers from Exeter and Kings College, London, which is also one of the venues on the tour, found that brain networks in people with epilepsy (IGE) have altered connections, in contrast to healthy controls.

By using computer algorithms and mathematical models, the researchers revealed subtle differences in dynamic network properties that enhance susceptibility to seizures.

The pivotal research has been published in a recent series of papers, the most recent of which has been published online in the leading scientific journal Epilepsia.

Professor Terry added: “Our research offers the fascinating possibility of a revolution in diagnosis for people with epilepsy.

“It will move us from diagnosis based on a qualitative assessment of easily observable features, to one based on quantitative features extracted from routine clinical EEG recordings.

“Not only would this reduce risk and uncertainty for people with epilepsy, but also speed up the process, since only a few minutes of resting state data from a first clinical recording is sufficient to make a diagnosis.”

For one hour, the show will bring together the logical world of mathematics and the unpredictable world of theatre to help understand what’s really going on inside our heads.

Audience members will be invited to offer feedback and the chance to interact with the performance as well as academics who will be on hand throughout the run.


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