City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Forbidden Experiment, Traverse Theatre, Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 02 May 2014

Forbidden Experiment production
Show Details
Traverse Theatre
Enormous Yes
MIchael John O'Neill (words), Rob Jones (director), Matt Regan (music), Adam Thayers (lighting)
Michael John O'Neill (himself, James IV, Mr Alvarez), Zosia Jo (herself, The Creature, The Ex, he Lady Doctor, Shelly Godwin), Rob Jones (himself) Matt Regan (himself, The Abbot , Sir Thomas Farmer, Scottish Islands Trustee)
Running time: 

‘The Forbidden Experiment’ could be said to be something of an experiment in itself. Clearly developed in rehearsal, and taking its inspiration and starting point from James IV of Scotland’s sequestering of two infants on the island of Inchkeith to be brought up by a mute woman, ‘The Forbidden Experiment’ ventures from this incident onto other topics.

James IV, often dismissed, even (perhaps particularly) by Scots as a ‘wrong but romantic’ monarch remembered for a chivalric gesture he never made that resulted in his demise along with thousands of others, rather than his renaissance interests, of which the Inchkeith abandonment was but one.

It undoubtedly strikes us as an unnecessary cruelty in the name of science’s stumbling beginnings, but Enormous Yes use it as a jumping off point for an examination of the issue of both how we treat our fellow creatures in distress and of experimentation in other forms.

We move from the Firth of Forth to New Mexico and the testing of the first atomic bomb, and are reminded that Inchkeith was used not only for James’ eccentric essay into linguistic science, but also as a dumping ground for victims of the ‘God gore’ (syphilis), and on other occasions for those suffering from bubonic plague.

It’s perhaps worth briefly commenting that seclusion was far from a royal prerogative, as Edinburgh’s own districts of Dumbiedykes and Liber (Leper) ton testify.

Enormous Yes are highly creative in their use of a variety of theatrical and narrative techniques to propel the performance forward, and Zosia Jo’s extensive acrobatic dance skills take us to places words cannot reach, there is at times a sense with ‘The Forbidden Experiment’ of both too much and not enough.

Although Enormous Yes are a highly skilled and very talented ensemble, there’s a lack of focus in the script that works against rather than with their strengths. Individually and collectively one wishes them well, and that they may yet devise a way of making more from a concept that has considerable potential.

Runs til 3 May


I rather enjoyed the production and its shifts in time, and style of playing fast and loose with the "research." Based on your interest in correcting some of the "facts" in the production, I find it interesting that you missed the tongue-in-cheek comment that the data is more "qualitative than quantitative," as well as the fact that the syphilitics are called the "Grandgore afflicted," not "God Gores." Not to mention the fact that the company is not called "Amazing Yes" but I see you've edited that now. It's a shame too you haven't credited Colin Chaloner with his lovely AV design, which really added to the tone and style of the piece.