City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Futuristic, Genomics Drama to Have Airing

By edg - Posted on 23 February 2012

Genomics revue

Come April, Peter Arnott - an award-winning scribe from Glasgow - will have completed a year as the first Resident Playwright to be based at the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Genomics Forum. The position has been part of a creative partnership with the Traverse Theatre.

When you consider how enduring and influential Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein has been as a commentary on scientists' experiments in engineering life, it is perhaps not surprising that scientists have been looking to expand the conversation on genomics through theatre.

Arnott's residency is just one of ESRC Genomics Forum's various creative forays to expand the public debate.

The playwright has met with Forum members, experts, and Fellows, exploring what is described as the "social aspects of genomics".

Issues have included designer babies, synthetic blood, DNA profiling, identity politics, plant and animal genetics, personalised medicine, stem cell research and garage biology.

It appears to have been a fruitful collaboration with the Traverse yesterday announcing it had commissioned Arnott to complete a full-length genomics-related play, The Fly Room.

Orla O’Loughlin, Traverse Artistic Director, said meeting Arnott has been "fantastic."

Steve Yearley, Director of the ESRC Genomics Forum, has also been fulsome in his praise for Arnott:

"Peter exceeded our ambitious expectations during his year's residency at the Genomics Forum. He entered into our world of engagement with the life sciences with an infectious enthusiasm and inspired new audiences to consider both the science itself and its social dimensions."

Arnott has shared his discoveries widely through his regular Genotype blog, monthly Translating the Genome? discussions in the Traverse bar, and public events including a playwriting workshop and a performed dramatised debate, Who’s view of Life?

And now you can get a taste of what's about to come out of Arnott's lab, with two upcoming performances at the Traverse.

Genomic Revue

In the first of two events related to the commission, Talent Night in the Fly Room (Tues 29 March, 7.30pm) Arnott will introduce his characters in a genomics-inspired revue.

Genetically engineered survivors of an extinct human race gather in a library at the end of time. Stored here are DNA sequences of everything that has ever lived. And all of human culture. But they have forgotten how to read it and are beginning to suspect that biology has a wicked sense of humour.

There will also be a rehearsed reading of Arnott’s script in development, The Fly Room, as part of the Traverse Theatre’s Write Here New Writing Festival – ten days of readings, workshops, and writing events curated by recently appointed Traverse Artistic Director, Orla O’Loughlin who will direct the reading of The Fly Room (Sat 21 April).

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Peter has been exploring and researching the world of genomics, uncovering stories and interesting facts and recording his activities via regular blogs on the ESRC Genomics Forum's Genotype.

To read all his blog posts visit :

And to book tickets for Peter's events  contact  - Traverse Theatre on 0131 228 1404 /

Traverse Theatre Company / ERSC Genomics Forum
Talent Night in the Fly Room
For one night only – Songs, poems, sketches and stories in Peter Arnott’s Genomics Revue
Date and Time: Tues 29 March (7.30pm)
Tickets: £6 (£4 Concession)
Traverse Theatre Company
The Fly Room
by Peter Arnott. Directed by Orla O’Loughlin, part of Write Here New Writing Festival
Date and Time: Sat 21 April ( 7.30pm)
Tickets: £5

Given Arnott's ties with the ESRC Genomics Forum I imagine that there is a certain amount of pressure on him to come up with a script that ultimately has a positive message about genomics. However, when I think about some of the most compelling dramas or films about genetic engineering, it's usually about when things go wrong or there is awful, unexpected side-effect of the original blueprint - from Frankenstein type monsters to mutant superheroes. That's probably why this whole project is taking place.

Should be interesting to see what kind of philosophical spin Arnott takes and whether it makes good drama. The fact that The Fly Room starts off with an end-of-the-world scenario (with genomics having apparently saved humanity from extinction) means that there's plenty of potential for things to get better in the course of the script!