Review: A Flying Photon

Rachel Rayner, Science Explainer presents an insightful and energetic explanation of the photon, bringing attention to the many colours of our universe. (Image source: Adelaide Fringe)

By Helen Karakulak | @helen_karakulak

Rachel Rayner puts the physics in physical theatre in this illuminating performance that proves value in using the arts to engage audiences in science.

The Sky Room of the Griffins may as well have held a TEDx stage as Rayner paced, sat, and twisted around it while giving her scientific spiel. Elements of comedy are clear throughout, with the lecture format dominating but don’t let that deter you. In her galaxy print leggings, glittery top and expressive eye-makeup, Rayner is the hip guest lecturer I am sure many wish they have while you slug through your own science degrees.

As a journalism major, with little to no understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum beyond the teachings of year 10 science all those years ago, I was pleased that no assumed knowledge was required to enjoy this show. Rayner provides easy to follow context, engaging metaphors, and visual aids to make the science sparkle. Whether you’re a gamma-ray-geek, x-ray enthusiast, or tend to side-step science, this show is sure to engage you.  

You can tell by her tone and comfortable physicality onstage that Rayner is sure of herself and her subject matter. Her background in education is clear, but she is careful not to condescend her adult audience. Rayner jazzes up her graphs by comparing various waves energy levels with that of differing dog breeds, providing explanation that’s easy to follow. Taking advantage of every ‘op-pun-tunity’, Rayner provides an enjoyable and accessible show despite age or prior knowledge.

Rayner’s visual aids displayed on screen above her provide both scientific context and comedic execution. Particularly fascinating additions were the work of the telescopes: Hubble, SOFIA and Fermi. Showing images taken of the Milky Way at various frequencies exposes unique aspects of our universe and all its colours. These visuals are well utilised and undoubtably engaging.

Rayner’s enthusiasm is contagious as she shares her appreciation for the shimmery side of science which audiences will leave with a newfound, or reinforced admiration for.

A Flying Photon is running at the Sky Room of the Griffins Hotel until March 7 2021.

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