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5-star Calculating Kindness at Camden People’s Theatre – Review

Calculating KindnessCalculating Kindness poses its main question within the title – can kindness be completely selfless or are we kind to others for our own personal gain? Is there a science to the whole idea of a “good deed”? Famous geneticist, George Price once created an equation that proved that there could be and therefore opened many additional questions regarding free will, religion and self-awareness.

Lydia Adetunji’s play explores the time and life of Price from his personal life, his work and struggles later on. The play is premiering at Camden People’s Theatre until 16th April 2016.

The cast of three are all equally as strong as one another. Adam Burton, who plays Price, commands the stage and creates many ‘versions’ of the geneticist to display throughout and they are equally interesting, layered and somewhat confusing (in a good way). Neal Craig and Rachael Spence share the task of taking on every other character from Price’s ex-wife Julia, Dr. William Hamilton and others. The two give great and varied performances and these three actors showcase one of the strongest trios I’ve seen in theatre for quite some time.

The script is throughly researched and includes highly intellectual knowledge though never presumes the amount of information the audience has come in already knowing. The scenes within the play flow well and all the scientific information is explained clearly enough that the audience never seems to hesitate any thought. It’s a subtle thing to notice but when a play of strong scientific subject matter is able to get its messages and characters across clearly (from an audience point-of-view), it’s something to be silently applauded.

Having only seen much smaller shows at Camden People’s Theatre, I was taken aback by Lucy Sierra’s ambitious set. The wood panelled set looked fantastic and served a very strong purpose to the story. It fills out CPT’s tiny space but it works very well. This was lifted to higher praise by Ziggy Jacobs’ captivating lighting design and Nick Rothwell’s sound. Laura Farnsworth’s direction is able to keep our focus and interest in this one-act, 90-minute play by making cast and adaptable set alike work strongly together to bring the scenes along smoothly.

The time jumps between scenes were a little confusing at first as there was no definition on stage as to when we were or what part of Price’s life we were witnessing. However, the script within the first few lines of each scene were able to explain these details to the audience without being obvious. The show doesn’t directly explain or spell out what’s happening to its viewers, but the writing and direction are clear enough and the show trusts its audience will understand. They do with no problems.

Calculating Kindness is an intelligent show and for fans of exploring the life of scientists and great thinkers (recently, Turing in film and Oppenheimer on stage) this show can offer a high standard of talent, charm and entertainment. One of the most interesting, thought-provoking, informative and entertaining productions I’ve seen recently.

5 Star Rating

Review by Tomm Ingram

This striking new work written by award-winning playwright Lydia Adetunji and directed by award-winning director Laura Farnworth, along with advisors Dr. Gardner (St. Andrews University); Professor Alan Grafen (Oxford University); Professor Pomiankowski (UCL) and Dr. Valli (Institute of Psychiatry), weighs up the question: was Price mentally ill, or consumed by a spiritual desire to disprove his own theory: that man is only kind to his own kin?

The production is designed by Lucy Sierra with lighting by Ziggy Jacobs. The producer is Sophie Cornell. Casting will be announced shortly.

Calculating Kindness is supported by Wellcome Trust, Arts Council England, Royal Victoria Hall Foundation and the European Society for Evolutionary Biology.

Listings Information:
Venue: Camden People’s Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Rd, London NW1 2PY
Dates: Tuesday 29 March – Saturday 16 April 2016
Press Night: Thur 31 March 2016, 7pm
Times: Tue – Sat at 7pm, Sat matinee at 3pm


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