Deciphering, a powerful new production from internationally renowned science-led theatre company curious directive, premieres at the New Diorama Theatre this autumn, running from 7 September to 2 October 2021.
Blending expansive storytelling, innovative technology, and international collaboration, Deciphering takes audiences inside a real Indonesian cave network containing the oldest graphic communication ever found. The show is being created in collaboration with Indonesian artist collective Bombo, who have been granted exclusive world-first access to the extraordinary wall etchings in caves on the island of Sulawesi. Deciphering playfully brings together archaeology, history, drama and technology to explore the timeline of human creativity and communication from our origins to our possible futures.
The narrative follows Elise, who goes from making shapes on a piece of paper as an eight-year-old in primary school to travelling to Indonesia’s Sulawesi 35 years later to decipher a set of geometric symbols before floods destroy them forever. Providing a powerful meditation on our collective need to communicate, Elise’s discoveries invite the audience on an inter-continental journey to the origins of human creativity, symbolic meaning, and language itself.
Elise’s findings are a dramatic retelling of recently uncovered wall etchings discovered in a cave in Sulawesi earlier this year. Made 37,500 years ago, these are the oldest stories humans have ever told. Deciphering carries with it an urgency to share these stories while acknowledging the care with which they must be handled. The work is the result of a painstaking collaboration, across borders amidst a global pandemic, with videographer Rais Rice and sound artist Reza Enem. The duo, who make up the collective Bombo, are from Makassar in South Sulawesi.
Exploring the educational ideals of the late Sir Ken Robinson, grappling with the imminent loss of heritage amidst the ravages of climate change, and exploring the contested intersections of science and creativity, Deciphering is a gripping production with a mother-daughter collaboration at its core.
Artistic director Jack Lowe said: “As a theatre company exploring storytelling through the lens of science, curious directive is working within the parameters of science and creativity. The production drifts forwards in time to the present day, when arts subjects are being cut by 50%. We’re showing that our first encounters with knowledge (via creative means) is vital for the preparation of our young people. Not just for the individual, but society as a whole.”
Since 2008, award-winning ensemble curious directive has conceived science-led theatre from their Norwich base. Their productions have international reach, presenting in over 100 venues across the world to 165,000 audience members and won two Fringe First awards (Pioneer and Your Last Breath). Deciphering is co-commissioned by New Diorama Theatre and supported by the London Community Foundation (Cockayne Grants for the Arts).