Ipswich: Science Live explodes on the Regent stage

The Energy Show
from Science Museum. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega

The Energy Show from Science Museum. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega - Credit: Archant

Anthony Richards literally has the coolest job ever.

The Energy Show
from Science Museum. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega

The Energy Show from Science Museum. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega - Credit: Archant

“You can do amazing things with liquid nitrogen, the reason you can’t let the public on to it is because it’s very dangerous,” he laughs as we talk about Science Museum Live’s The Energy Show, at the Ipswich Regent on May 24-25.

“You have to be very careful but you can never beat blowing stuff up or freezing it, all the things you were never allowed really to do in science class at school but love to do because they just take your breath away.”

Futuristic science students Annabella and Phil, with help from virtual lab-assistant i-nstein, need your help as they race against time to prove their knowledge of the different types of energy in a steampunk workshop full of gadgets and chemicals.

The interactive physics show, aimed at children and families, will see methane bubbles set alight to create fireballs, flowers frozen using liquid nitrogen and hydrogen rockets fired into the audience.

“It’s 75-minutes long, a full theatrical production with loads and loads of experiments woven through a storyline. For instance, we have three balloons which are mixed with different levels of air and oxygen and we explode those onstage and you feel the shockwave go right through the theatre.

“We have a trebuchet, which is like a massive catapult, which we talk about how energy is used in weapons like that. We create lightning on stage (with) a Tesla coil which plays the theme to Star Wars... in keeping with all the things we do at the Science Museum there’s audience participation. The experiments are really quite... explosive is the word I’d say,” says Richards, who along with his team design the experiements.

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The aim is to entertain and educate in a non-school like way.

“These shows are accessible and people enjoy them but the ultimate goal is to get audiences interested in science and make them more science literate... balancing both iss the hardest part of the job.”

The team look at what youngsters are learning in school and there are accompanying resources on its website.

“It’s not just somebody running around with a fire stick. Content is the word we use, it’s got to be relevant, meaningful, otherwise we’d be doing the museum a disservice,” says Richards, who just celebrated 25 years working there museum, having starting off as an explainer.

Now behind its Outreach shows and Launchpad galley, he’s spent the last 15 years developing performances, shows and special events for children and families.

“Sometimes people say ‘why aren’t you more serious’? Without any engagement you’ve got nothing. If you don’t get their interest, there’s no way they’re going to learn anything.

“We get three million people a year coming to the museum... obviously not everyone can come to London and it’s very good to take all this lovely stuff that’s free in terms of coming to the museum around the country.”

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