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"I use myself as the catalyst for the investigation"

In our first Audrey podcast, Rachel Roberts and Nathan Harrison talk about the place where science and theatre meet.

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Company: Q Theatre
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Audrey Artist Podcast #1: Rachel Roberts and Nathan Harrison

Date: 5 Mar 2018

Theatre meets the TED talk in the latest projects to emerge from Q Theatre’s Q Lab development program: Rachel Roberts’ Everything You Ever Wanted, and Nathan Harrison’s How I Saved the Western Black Rhino.

Listen to Rachel and Nathan’s podcast here or hit play in the photo above.

Both works present complex issues – body image and diet; conservation and extinction – in short solo shows. Each draws on the personal and the scientific to challenge preconceptions and misinformation.

In Everything You Ever Wanted, Roberts explores her own “complicated relationship” with food and our society’s ongoing obsession with dieting and weight loss.

“I use myself as the catalyst for the investigation,” Roberts says. “My own experience pushed me into the field but what I have learned from my studies applies to so many more people than just myself.”

Roberts spent two years talking to dieticians and psychologists and delving into the science of weight loss and chronic diet recovery. She also investigated the way we speak about food and weight. “The language used around food and our bodies has morphed to become more than just words,” Roberts says. “Words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’, applied to food, become so loaded. I try to pick apart the semantics and get the audience to think about it in a different way.”

Roberts and Harrison have worked together for nine years in the Applespiel collective and the Canberra-based interactive science-theatre company Boho.

“Applespiel makes work about ego and personal story and myth, while Boho is more didactic science theatre and focused on systems and complex science,” says Roberts. “This project is us trying to marry those two things and see what comes out of it.”

Harrison’s How I Saved the Western Black Rhino is inspired by his fascination with the idea of extinction.

“A few years ago I got really interested in the idea, its terrifying finality and permanence. The idea of extinction is absolutely terrifying to me. There have been five major extinction events in world history and now we’re heading for a sixth … and this one is caused by us.”

Harrison tells a story – which may or may not be true – of travelling to Cameroon on a quest to save the Western Black Rhino from extinction.

“Part of what I’m playing with is how we tell the stories of huge ideas and events,” Harrison says. “But it’s also very much a story of me being thrust into a strange world. There are elements of the lecture in there but it’s very blurred by the personal. I think it’s going to be quite an emotional ride.”

Back to Back plays at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith, March 15-24.

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