Applause and laughter flood the audience as Peter Arnott leads an hour-long performance flitting between the philosophical, religious and moral. Arnott is the playwright in residence with University of Edinburgh’s ESRC Genomics Forum and the piece being performed, Talent Night in the Fly Room, is the result of his partnership with the Traverse Theatre - genomics has never been so amusing.
Strewn with live piano and scientific sing-a-longs, the play is set in a library that once held all the genetic information of mankind. Attempting to recapture the information lost and the meaning behind it, four scientists tune in via headphones to the database that once held so much clarity for them. The resulting hypnotic hymns are strewn with a history of genomics, realisations about who they really are and insights into the genetics of all living things.
Although a comedy, Talent Night in the Flyroom approaches some very serious questions: is genetic modification morally permissible; do we have the right to culture hybrids of animals or crops, just because we have discovered how to do so? What might be the implications of such actions where we, in a sense, 'play God'?
Working with experts as they explore the subject of genomics which Arnott states is a “catch all term for techniques and research developed in the life sciences since the specific event of the sequencing of the human genome”. Arnott’s goal is to raise awareness about the various discoveries within genomics, and stir up excitement and interest in the field. He sees Talent Night in the Flyroom as a prelude to a fuller performance that he hopes will run at The Traverse permanently.