The recently renovated Bloomsbury Theatre is establishing a programme inspired by research that will see performers and creatives work alongside leading scientists and academics.
The central London theatre, which is owned and run by University College London, said it wanted to be at the forefront of using theatre and performance as a mode of research, and to challenge “traditional ideas about the role of theatre in a research-intensive university”.
The venue relaunched this week following a £19.8 million restoration project that closed the building for three-and-a-half years.
Prior to its closure, the Bloomsbury had an existing reputation as a venue on the stand-up comedy circuit and will continue to stage theatre, comedy, music and dance in addition to UCL student productions.
The new Performance Lab, which launches in May, will explore how live performance and research can inspire each other, bringing artists and organisations into the theatre to work with researchers from fields including science, technology, art and design.
Among the first public events programmed is a live experiment by cognitive neuroscience professor Sophie Scott into why humans laugh and what happens to our bodies when we do.
The programme also includes a live event exploring the neuroscience of imagination, using new brain imaging technologies to reveal what happens when actors perform a character.
Frank Penter, director of operations for UCL Culture – which manages the theatre – told The Stage: “We hope [Performance Lab] will mean cutting-edge researchers can work with creative organisations to use the space in an interesting and new way.
“UCL is a research-intensive university, so we asked: how can researchers work together with large and small creative organisations and artists in a way that is mutually beneficial? We hope we can use the theatre as a catalyst for that.”
The theatre reopened officially this week, but has been hosting performances since November. It closed for what was intended to be a year-long renovation in 2015, however the reopening was pushed back by two years and questions were raised over whether the venue would return to performance use at all.
As part of the works, the 541-seat auditorium and stage have been upgraded, and the university said it hoped to attract a mix of “new and experimental theatre, research-driven content and high-profile and household names” to its professional programme.