Which came first: the Big Bang, or the turtle? Clare Murphy has been studying ‘mythience’ – the place where the peer-reviewed rational meets time-tested favourites. One of Crick Crack Club’s regular storytelling performances, this is a new piece from Murphy, and it feels new – an experiment in bringing science, new myths and preexisting myths together.
The opening act of the show particularly sets up a series of echoes between origin stories – in this case a Native American tale of the goddess who lays out the mountains and fields of a globe covered in ocean with the help of a hardy turtle – and an account of the first few seconds of the Universe – a Bacchanalian orgy of gluons and quarks reproducing furiously.
This direct back and forth between physics and fantasy retreats somewhat as Murphy follows the Earth Diver turtle into a set of Greek myths and histories, with appearances of Apollo, Hermes, and Orpheus before the introduction of the theories of Pythagoras. During this section a key theme of Murphy’s show emerges: that music is a place where science and art are brought together. She has the audience perform a sound experiment which makes household objects like a coathanger thrum and thunder like Zeus’ speech: the ordinary made otherworldly, and therefore the otherworldly brought closer to home.
Murphy’s delivery is warm and engaging, with little impressions of characters’ voices and movements along the way. These are only momentary flashes however; this is firmly performance storytelling, as opposed to a one-woman show. A greater range of both vocal and physical delivery would pull us into her worlds, but there is something honest and unassuming about the form – even as it leaves the little cracks in her new creation bare. As a story of stories UniVerse doesn’t quite hold together yet, but then the last time I checked most myth stories jostle when placed closely together, and physicists are still searching for a theory of everything to resolve various incompatible models of behaviour in the universe. The function of both myth and science is to make the unknown familiar, and UniVerse is at its best when it dives between the close and the cosmic in a single thought.
UniVerse was on at the Soho Theatre. Click here for more of their programme.