Photo credit: Douglas Jones

Photo credit: Douglas Jones

Photo credit: Douglas Jones

Huxley’s Lab

Informatics Department, University of Edinburgh


Huxley’s Lab was a major co-production between Grid Iron and inclusive theatre specialists Lung Ha’s.

Tackling the controversial subject of our contemporary slide into eugenics, the piece, written by Ben Harrison and inspired by Aldous Huxley’s dystopian fiction Brave New World, involved a cast of thirty from both companies.

Huxley’s Lab animated the sparkling new spaces of the Informatics Forum at the University of Edinburgh, from a huge atrium to lecture theatres to rooftop garden.

The piece presents a world run by the Perfecters, under the gaze of Professor Huxley himself, in which natural childbirth has been banned and a strict caste system operates, created from birth in a test tube: DomServs, Labrobots, Measurers and Perfecters. The Naturals, who do not subscribe or who are not allowed into the world of ‘perfection’ live on the roof, have children and are often experimented on.

Inspired by the medieval spirit of the buffon and drawing extensively on co-director Maria Oller’s Gaulier training, the Naturals become a joyous but dangerous counterpoint to the suffocating world of pneumatic perfection propagated by the followers of Huxley.

Created over weekly workshops since September 2009, two intensive script development weeks and five weeks of rehearsal, Huxley’s Lab continued Grid Iron’s policy of making controversial work out in the real world and addressing areas of huge contemporary significance.

Mark Fisher, The Guardian

Rather than treading familiar ground, the production by Ben Harrison and Maria Oller is fresh, funny and polemical…Harrison’s script successfully connects a crackpot theory from the 1930s to today…the ‘naturals’ presence- joyful, vulgar, defiant- is a stinging reminder of what happens when eugenics is applied to the splendid variety of real life. All too convincingly, the staff promote an atomised lifestyle that rejects the messiness of the family in favour of pneumatic bodies and pornographic pleasure. ..the play brilliantly engages with a deep neurosis in our ‘fitter, happier, more productive’ time.’

Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman

Ben Harrison and Maria Oller’s production makes inspired use of the Informatics Forum… the use of music (by Philip Pinsky) ranges fascinatingly from atmospheric and doom-laden background noise to brisk little pep-songs for the perfect…strikingly effective simple choreography from Janis Claxon and the leading performances all have a piercing clarity…an experience that those who see it are unlikely to forget.