Based on the book by Lauren Slater, Opening Skinner’s Box takes a fascinating look at ten great psychological experiments and gives insight into the people who first conducted them and the impact it has made on society today.
Lauren is unusually a character in the play, a nice device that allows a narrative to flow through the piece and link the experiments together.
Laura Hopkins’ staging is simply stunning – one box made of lines of almost rope that can be bent and manipulated to wonderful effect. There’s also a row of lab coats and various other small props, which allows each scenario to be created in a minimalistic style.
The small cast also works well, multi-roling various different parts. Directed by Phelim McDermott and Lee Simpson, there is a lovely blend between actors speaking to one another and addressing the audience directly. Quite a few of the cast fluffed lines and seemed to trip up on what they were saying slightly more often than I would have expected, but the delivery of lines and quick-paced energy is incredible. The cast bring so much humour to the stage, while also being able to create such a thoughtful atmosphere when the scripting requires it. It is clear the cast of six have worked incredibly closely together, and this teamwork pays off.
The subtle use of sound and lighting (designed by Adrienne Quartly and Nigel Edwards respectively) should also be commented upon. At no point intrusive, it really adds to the atmosphere and the use of music sent shivers down my spine on several occasions.
Improbable, in co-production with West Yorkshire Playhouse and Northern Stage, have created a truly wonderful show that both educates and entertains the audience. For those interested in psychology – this is a must see. Most people will be fascinated by the content of the show and the psychological experiments explored so I really would recommend it!
The show runs until 14th May at West Yorkshire Playhouse – don’t miss it.