Super Paua, Dublin-based theatre company which creates socially-focused shows for young people and communities, presents The Lonsdale Project, a theatre play for ages 11+ focusing on the fascinating life of Kathleen Lonsdale (1903-1971), a ground-breaking scientist and an inspiring citizen vastly ahead of her contemporaries.
In 1924 Kathleen Lonsdale joined the crystallography research team headed by Nobel Prize winner Sir William Henry Bragg at the Royal Institution, 5 years later she proved that the benzene ring is flat by using X-ray diffraction methods to elucidate the structure of hexamethylbenzene. She was also the first woman, alongside Marjory Stephenson, to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, first woman tenured professor at University College London, first woman president of the International Union of Crystallography, and first woman president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
She was an Irish pacifist and a former inmate of Holloway Prison (she spent one month in the prison for refusing to register for civil defence duties or to pay a fine for the refusal), a prison reformer, a mother of three and a vegetarian before it was cool. In other words, Kathleen Lonsdale was a pioneering scientist and citizen.
Despite being lauded in her field and renowned in her time, Lonsdale’s name and scientific legacy are curiously unknown by the general public – The Lonsdale Project aims to change that.
With playful dialogue and design, vivid characters, and pressing relevance to the scientific and political debates of today, The Lonsdale Project asks its audiences to consider how we feel towards science, how we remember (or forget) the great scientists of times gone by, and whether we value curiosity, creativity, hard work and personal conviction enough to let them shape our collective future.
Super Paua portrays the hugeness and beauty of microscopic worlds theatrically, moving the field of X-ray crystallography from the incomprehensible to the humorous, the visual, the wonderful, and bring Kathleen’s story and legacy to a new generation of scientists and citizens. Super Paua transforms STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, maths)!
Written and directed by Sian Ní Mhuirí, The Lonsdale Project previews in Ireland, in Lonsdale’s birthplace Newbridge as well as Dublin in March, before the UK opening on England’s biggest fringe, Brighton Fringe on 15 May and visiting the prestigious Royal Institution on 24 and 25 May.
The cast includes Hazel Clifford (Cara in Starry Nights, also performed at The Gate Theatre in The Snapper and, more recently, in Playboy of the Western World in the Lyric Theatre Belfast), Aoife Spratt (a regular on the improvised comedy podcast Phoning it in, also known for stage and tv appearances in John Morton’s Smitten and The Roaring Banshees by Devious Theatre) and Graeme Coughlan (actor and director with the most recent credits including Dubdaze which appeared at the Dublin International Film Festival and The Collector at The New Theatre).
Sian Ní Mhuirí said: “This project has made me – for one – more curious and more confident in my abilities, especially where science and maths are concerned. This is not something I expected, as it was Lonsdale’s anti-war writings which hooked me in, initially, and not her research work. But Kathleen Lonsdale’s energy, values and ideas are so infectious that I have no doubt I won’t be the only one converted by the end of our UK tour.”
Peter Gallivan of the Royal Institution said: “We are very excited by the prospect of this project, and to highlight the important contributions Kathleen Lonsdale has made to the scientific world.”
The Lonsdale Project is funded by Arts Council Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland.