Using theatre to communicate science

When the University of Wollongong and the Illawarra Area Health Service wanted to develop their Managing a Healthy Balance in Food & Exercise Program they called on the Eaton Gorge Theatre Company (EGTC) to develop a play that made all their research and findings palatable to a young audience. The resulting play The Take Away Bellies was the first of EGTC’s plays with a signature style which uses a combination of scientific facts, theatre and crazy characters to engage and educate their young audiences.

The company has since collaborated with Shoalhaven Water to develop two plays: Tapstar Saves Water and Tapstar Saves the Waterways. Both have been very popular nationally and Shoalhaven Water credits these performances as having been significant in the reduction of water use in the area. The Shoalhaven Council has recently won the United Nations Association of Australia World Environment Day Awards 2014 – Local Government (Excellence in Overall Environmental Management) Award category and the Tapstar Program and EGTC’s King and Queen of Greenplays were a part of the submission.

In 2010 EGTC were funded by the Brazilian Consul to present at the IDEA Conference in Brazil on the value of drama in environmental education. The Company has also presented at many national conferences discussing the strategies they use to achieve environmental educational objectives. Our work is highly theatrical and character driven, finding appropriate characters to promote information and to demonstrate the science behind environmental issues. But most importantly, the success of our work can be measured.

One of our newer shows, Sammy and Shellie, explores challenges facing the marine environment and really has a big impact on mums in particular. Company director, Juliet Scrine, says “We often don’t think of plastic being such an insidious thing and once we look at the amount of plastic that ends up in our waterways and destroys natural habitats we have found the mums get really angry and sad. Demonstrating the story of the local waterways has real impact and also provides simple solutions that are offered by the audience. This is quite empowering as they are the ones that came up with the idea!”

EGTC is currently working with Holroyd Council to reduce waste from cigarette butts and chewing gum using street theatre to engage the general public with great success. We are also looking at developing a holiday program with the Royal Botanic Gardens which focuses on the importance of soil to maintain a healthy and sustainable environment.

2015 looks to be a busy year and the team at EGTC are hoping to work with the Illawarra Science hub to develop more opportunities in museums, science centres and events. Theatre provides a vehicle for an audience to take a look at everyday issues with different eyes and opens up discussion. This is the power of theatre and science working together.

About the author
Juliet Scrine is Company Director of the Eaton Gorge Theatre Company