Writer and performer Amy Tobias introduces The Quantum Physics of My Heart as a lecture about science, which will combine anecdotes from her life, audience participation and experiments. I won’t lie – as someone who didn’t particularly love science at school, and who’s definitely not a fan of audience participation, this formula presented me with mild cause for concern – particularly having innocently taken a seat in the front row (seriously, when will I learn?). But then something unexpected happened: in a pleasantly surprising chemical reaction, everything came together to produce a show that’s funny, endearing and even a bit educational.
The magic ingredient, I suspect, is Amy Tobias herself. Taking full advantage of the fact that – as she herself admits – a lot of people think she’s still a child (even though she’s not), she plays her teenage self with twinkly enthusiasm, unflinching honesty and a self-deprecating humour that proves very difficult to resist. Over the course of an hour, to a soundtrack of 90s hits and video clips from classics like Clueless and Jurassic Park, she reflects on her life between the ages of 13 and 16, including teenage crushes, her first house party, and an inappropriately placed hand on her 16-year-old knee.
The aim of all this is to try and prove the hypothesis that science can be used to explain everything. Following in her scientist dad’s footsteps, Amy loves the subject, and throughout the show manages to successfully bend various theories to make sense of life’s Big Questions – or at least what pass for Big Questions when you’re a teenager: things like why your BFF doesn’t want to be friends any more, or why last week you fancied your science teacher, and now you’re more interested in the ICT technician. But eventually she encounters a problem that can’t be explained away so easily – the aforementioned inappropriate hand – and is forced to look elsewhere for answers.
Directed by Roxy Cook, the action is indeed framed very much as a (slightly unconventional) lecture, with audio and visual aids on a projector screen to help illustrate the show’s anecdotes and theories. Meanwhile down on the ground, Amy bounces around the stage in her school uniform and a lab coat, vividly recreating events so that we’re totally drawn into her story and come to really care about what happens to her.
As for the audience participation, it’s all very harmless, mostly consisting of us all delving frequently into our “experiment bags” and producing 90s-themed props (some of the edible kind). The role each of these plays in Amy’s experiments is tenuous at best, but their inclusion brings the show to life in a fun, nostalgic way. And for those of us who also grew up in the 90s or 00s, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on our own teenage years and the important moments – and music – that made us who we are today. I only wish all my science lessons at school had been this much fun.
Can’t see the map on iPhone? Try turning your phone to landscape and that should sort it. I don’t know why but I’m working on it… 😉