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Edinburgh Blog: How making theatre is just like chemistry

Cameron Carver is the co-creator and director of No Place Like Home

Alex Roberts in No Place Like Home
© Virginie Taylor

Back in school I loved chemistry and I was fascinated by the fact that mixing elements would cause different reactions, like how mixing vinegar and baking soda causes an explosion, or how varying levels of acidity will change the colour of a litmus strip.

Making theatre is just like a giant chemistry lab. We've got different devices or tools, but still it's our job to strike the balance of each element, with expert timing and mindful measurement.

No Place Like Home is a tragic odyssey into gay club culture that aims to hold your attention with its alchemy. In a piece that investigates intersectional violence in spaces that are meant to be called home, there are so many contradictions being held in the balance. The narrator conjures up a world that is visceral and fuelled by alcohol and sex, but where he also steps back and witnesses the nuanced power dynamics ingrained within the nightclub scene. Oh yeah, and there are many parallels to the technicolour world of The Wizard of Oz.

Time for some chemistry. There are four main elements in our production: poetry, music, dance, and video art. Each component found their way into the process quite organically once we understood the story we wanted to tell.

Poetry was our point of departure, with its magical ability to blend worlds of reality and metaphor. Some early drafts led us very quickly into music, with its expressive ability to underscore and underline the words and feeling. With the piece being set primarily in a nightclub, choreography made its way into the story early on too, supporting the rhythm of the text through intricate gestural language.

All of these elements come together as a solo show, starring Alex Roberts. It is a chemical reaction in and of itself: he moves and changes and becomes the different voices of the piece.

Initially, the video was used practically to help solve the fact that Alex needed to play all the characters (we still use quite a few neon silhouettes of his body from our first R&D.) However, after some time, the video design became the Erlenmeyer flask that delicately and yet firmly holds all the heightened elements in place.

The results have been really inspiring and the balance of these four elements feels seamless, hopefully allowing the piece to flow through you like a bolt of rainbow electricity.

No Place Like Home is at the Pleasance Dome from 3 to 29 August

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