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Interview: How Do You Enjoy Your Crumpets?

ANTS Theatre on Quantum tunnelling and Qrumpets.

Sometimes we read a press release that is so strange, so different, we really need to know more. So we have to admit, ANTS Theatre really caught our attention with their press release that stated: “You’ve heard of quantum tunnelling right? The theory that if you continuously throw a crumpet at a wall, it will eventually go through”. Rather embarrassingly, we have to admit this is all new to us, although there are some crumpets in the kitchen and we’re now wondering whether to eat them or experiment with them.

But whilst we decide on that, we found time to sit down with three members of ANTS Theatre, Diana, Lu and Paul, and see if they are talking waffles or if this really is a true thing. And whilst we’re at it, what else this show might teach us?

So what on earth brought you to Quantum tunnelling?

Diana: This comes from a pseudo science experiment that a high school teacher of mine suggested. What I remember of this experiment is that it had to do with particles and that that teacher said: ‘there is a very slight probability that this pizza may go through the wall, if the particles are ordered in such a way that they just go through the particles of the wall. So, potentially, if you just keep trying until infinity it will eventually go through.’.

After doing some research, we discovered that this theory was actually a myth, pseudo science. However, this idea resonated with Quantum Tunneling, very small particles that should collision into each other end up jumping through each other! So we decided to embrace our discovery. I guess the next question would be… why did we not stick with pizza? But, to be honest, I think there is no need for explanation. Crumpets are just… the PERFECT edible for this experiment.

Lu: Back while doing our MA/MFAs, we were all gathered around brainstorming impossible tasks for a new performance piece. Diana brought up the theory of Quantum Tunnelling – “you know, the theory where if you throw a pizza at the wall enough times, it’ll go through?” At first, we weren’t convinced. Then Eva said: “But what if it DOES go through? And we’d be the ones to do it…”

Paul: Really, the action of throwing a crumpet against a wall in the hope that it will pass through is an exercise in futility. I don’t really understand quantum tunnelling, but from what I can discern, QUANTUM tunnelling works on a QUANTUM level with the phenomenon only being proved to occur with subatomic particles. This stimulus is the serious part of the show. The comedy comes from maintaining the real earnestness of an atomic experiment – but with buttered crumpets and double denim. We saw it pass through once under the same circumstances – and we want you to see it too! This isn’t pseudoscience!!

You’re all theatre graduates, but we assume some of you have some science background/ knowledge?

Diana: We do! Some of us come from the theatre industry and some of us don’t. We all have a love for science and, even if we don’t understand Quantum Tunneling to all it’s extent, we are fascinated by it.

Lu: We’re a multi-talented bunch! While we’re all ants now, we were once civil engineers, medics, computer programmers, linguists, designers and makers. Somehow, most of the work we make ends up being rooted in science. I think it’s because ultimately that’s what we come down to at our simplest forms, little mini atoms floating around.

Paul: My sister, Dr Sol H. Jacobsen, holds a PHD in theoretical physics and works with nobel prize winners on a daily basis… I knew there was no chance of competing in her field; so I’m just going to be an artist over here instead! However, she is definitely the first point of contact when developing art ideas about scientific theory.

Is the show just going to be you taking turns throwing a crumpet at the wall for an hour, or is there more to it than that?

Diana: The magic of quantum is that if you follow the same experiment in the exact same conditions, there is a probability that the experiment goes one way or another. For this reason, we MUST always follow the same steps in the same way, which means that there can only be one crumpet thrower! In the same way, there is only one crumpet toaster, one crumpet butterer, one note taker, one experiment success verifier and one biker – yes, we have a bike on stage! Come see the show to learn what it’s used for.

Lu: Oh no! Not just anyone can throw a crumpet at the wall… It has to be done in a precise way, by the optimum person. Absolutely no turns will be taken! We take this very seriously. However, you can look forward to a lot of throwing at the wall. Along the way though, you may find things go awry… little things at first, unnoticeable unless you’re looking for them. Then bigger. Then bigger. Then chaos and carnage.

Paul: Everyone’s interpretation of the show seems to be wildly different. Even within the cast there are different ideas about why we are doing this and where we are in the universe; some of us find sanctuary in the process, some find it thankless and others want to monetise on the success of our research after achieving the desired outcome.

One thing is for certain though, everything that happens onstage is in pursuit of a rigorous logic.

How many crumpets do you go through each performance? And have you considered if the crumpet should be toasted? And butter and jam, or just buttered?

Diana: It’s something around 50! (We compost them after each show). As soon as we have a pair of crumpets, there is a precise process this crumpet needs to follow before it is in throwing conditions. First, we need to toast it. Secondly, we need to butter it. Third, we need to weight them. Finally, we can choose one to be thrown. 

Lu: You are asking the right questions!! There is a perfect equilibrium to the experiment. Crumpets must be toasted, no doubt about it. Then buttered – we’re not monsters! But no jam. Never jam… In a typical performance we get through maybe 50 crumpets. I feel like it’s worth stating that we’ve done an environmental analysis and can report that composting crumpets post show (as is our policy) has less carbon footprint than making prop crumpets. We take our planet very seriously and try to limit our impact as much as possible.

You’re from all over the world, what is it that brought you together to form ANTS Theatre?

Diana: We were put together in a working group when studying Advanced Theatre Practice in The Central School of Speech and Drama. Before that, most barely even knew each other! We just worked so well together that we decided to continue working after finishing our masters. And… from here was born ANTS Theatre!

Lu: Some sort of wizardry happened. In fact, the first show we made together was Qrumpet! For me, what makes our company special is that we see everything through different perspectives. We bring different backgrounds in terms of culture, identity, sexuality, career… It makes bouncing off of each other so much more exciting because there really are no limits.

Paul: What is it that brought us all together? The BRILLIANT Dr Lynne Kendrick! Apparently, in the first term of our MA at RCSSD, we were all being quietly evaluated and matched by Lynne, our course leader. We wouldn’t have picked this group initially, so we owe it all to her really – thanks Lynne! The best thing about our group dynamic though, is that all of our skills complement each other which makes us able to actualise ideas and create weird machines – like the bike in Qrumpet that controls all of the stage lights!

The show is going on a short tour, is this so you can see if different locations give different results?

Diana: This is our first time touring as a company. As much as we are ambitious, self-producing our work is not an easy task! We decided to start small to have a test. This is a test not only for the play itself, but also for us, to see if, as a company, we are ready and can sustain going on tour. Theatre is a competitive world and it is always hard to find the right time, the right people, the right show and the right venues! Having said this, we do have big dreams! We are hoping that, after this mini tour, bigger opportunities come along and… eventually… tour internationally!

Lu: Absolutely. The world, being a sphere, generates different temporal frequencies that may affect our experiment. Where a crumpet may break through the wall in Didcot, perhaps it won’t in London. There are so many variables outside of our control, but we won’t let that stop us. We are absolutely determined and I am convinced that we will succeed.

And finally, what will you do if the crumpet actually does go through the wall during a show? Will this bring the show and tour to a halt as really, what else will be left to do?

Diana: This is a possibility that is very present in our minds and cause for debates in the group! In my opinion, I’d hang my coat there. We have made it, the experiment is done!  If we keep showing it, it could potentially end up in bad hands!!! I’d be very happy to move on to the next show at that point, knowing a secret that only a handful would share with me and, even if recorded, no one except those who were there would believe.

Lu: Once you learn how to ride a bike, do you stop? Of course not! You get better and better, until one day you can cycle with no hands! I guess what I’m trying to say is, once we get a crumpet through the wall, it’s only a matter of time before we can walk through the wall ourselves!

Paul: I like the system. I find my job within it comforting. If it went through; SURE, I’d take the next few days off and celebrate; but what happens after that? The alternative is too uncertain. I’d get back to it before long.

Thanks to Diana, Lu and Paul for giving up their valuable crumpet throwing time to chat with us.

Qrumpets plays at Camden People’s Theatre this Wednesday until Sunday. Further information and tickets can be found here.

The show will also be playing Bright and Didcot.

14 – 27 May Brighton Fringe. Tkts here.
8 June DIdcot Quarterstone Arts Centre. Tkts here.

About Everything Theatre

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