Polka Theatre’s Brain Wave Festival in Wimbledon and Croydon teams neuroscience with performance

A south London festival is scientifically-proven to entertain young minds.

Brain Waves festival at Wimbledon’s Polka children’s theatre from September 21 to October 16 sees performance meet neuroscience in a series of shows, workshops, screenings and talks.

Polka’s artistic director Peter Glanville said: “I thought it would be really interesting to have a period where over a few weeks we had a festival format which explored a particular theme in more detail and for the first time allowed wider conversations to happen around a particular theme.

“There is so much stuff that is coming out research-wise about neuroscience, and in particular in terms of how the brain changes and develops in children and how huge and significant that can be particularly with early years children.

“It is also telling us stuff about how the teenage brain behaves, and I thought this is really interesting.”

The festival sees artists working with scientists to develop shows including Shake Rattle and Roll, produced with Birkbeck University’s world-renowned Baby Lab and exploring what babies are thinking, why they laugh and react.

Glanville said: “It would be absolutely fascinating. We would be in rehearsals and the performer would be doing different things and the children would giggle and really respond and be moving in response to what she was doing.

“As artists we would be saying ‘that’s brilliant, keep that bit in’. With the scientists there, they would be saying ‘the reason why they laughed there was because you did that and this was because there was a change of rhythm’.

“It adds a really interesting different level to the way in which we work and I think will have an influence on the future of the way we work.”

Depths of My Mind, performed at the Brit School in Croydon from September 23 to October 2, sees aerialists from Scarabeus Aerial Theatre performing over the heads of the audience to bring to life the latest developments of neuroimaging of the teenage brain, including how it changes as we grow up, change and long for somewhere to belong.

Author Nicola Morgan – whose Young Adult fiction books include Mondays are Read and Fleshmarket – will host a talk on reading, relaxing and the teenage brain on September 21.

Polka will also become a Fun Palace on October 1 and 2 with a weekend of activities including a screening of Disney’s Inside Out and Animating the Brain, developed with neuroscientists from Kings College London, in which puppeteers try to develop a brain from scratch.

Together with a selection of workshops and talks to appeal to both children and adults, Glanville hopes Brain Waves will provide food for thought as well as science-inspired entertainment.

He said: “My hope is that it asks some important questions.

“The big question is ‘how might this affect the way we are in the future with children?’

“We know now that there are 700 neurons in the brain that are forming in the first year in a baby’s life. The difference in a baby that is being loved and stimulated and responded to and played with in relation to a baby that is not having those experiences changes the whole pattern and framework of their life.

“As a society we need to think about that.”

Go to polkatheatre.com

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Richmond and Twickenham Times | Theatre