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Brighton Fringe 2023

Science Adventures: Deep Sea

Coppice Theatre

Genre: Children's Theatre

Venue: Rotunda, Brighton


Low Down

Two hapless scientists take their young audience on a voyage to the very bottom of the ocean and the many bizarre creatures you can find there.


There’s a joyous quirkiness to this production – two performers in lab coats and beanies flit effortlessly between characters and storytelling modes, one of them bounding with energy and the other calm and collected. The clever set and unobtrusive projections are bright and colourful, and the script is sprinkled with clever jokes and bang-on science.

There are some absolutely lovely puppets on show, many made from recognisable everyday objects (I particularly like the umbrella vampire squid). Some are less brilliantly inventive than others (for example there’s a fish, given a pretty prominent role, that looks like it’s just been printed out on shiny paper and attached to a stick), but all the puppets have been carefully characterised, with different voices, and with care taken over their movement quality.

The script is sometimes too rigid, and the cast are not quite confident enough to break away from it when the necessity arises. Some young audience members at today’s show were clearly extremely knowledgeable about ocean terminology, and were full of facts about the different sea creatures with which we were presented. Unfortunately the space was not there for this to become a two-way conversation, the performers occasionally seeming flustered at being put off their stride by the well-meaning (and very much on-topic) contributions of the young scientists in the audience. We were cast in the role of oceanographers, but our permitted contributions were limited to rather mundane tasks like naming the submarine and deciding in which direction the mimed fishing should happen (and even then, the audience suggestion of fishing upstage was for some reason rejected).

One line bugs me – sorry for picking up on such a short throwaway moment. “Aren’t you curious?” asks one character. “No,” replies the other, “I’m a scientist.” I feel this sentiment undermines the inspirational picture of the work of scientists that the production overall does such a good job of promoting.

Let me say, though, that I really like that all the characters have gender-neutral pronouns.

And just a quick word on the venue where this takes place: the show was at the smaller of the two geodesic domes at the Rotunda on Regency Square, which is a really nice pop-up venue, with the one major drawback that there isn’t a toilet on site. We were advised to “sneak into” the nearby hotel. Not great for accessibility. The staff were all absolutely lovely though.

This strikes me as a company with a really fantastic approach to making science engaging for young people, though there are some issues to iron out. I applaud them, I will watch them closely, and I’m sure they’ll succeed in instilling in many young people a wondrous sense of curiosity in our natural world.