Theatre, Science, and the Popular: Two Contemporary Examples From Scandinavia


  • Daria Skjoldager-Nielsen Stockholm University
  • Kim Skjoldager-Nielsen Stockholm University



Charlotte Engelkes, Peder Bjurman, Svarta hål, Hotel Pro Forma, Kosmos , Edmund Husserl, the theatrical event, science theatre, science-in-theatre, science history, popularisa¬tion, popular science, science communication


This article explores relations between theatre, science, and the popular, which have largely been overlooked by Nordic theatre studies. The aim here is to introduce and understand the variety of ways theatre may communicate science to the public, the point of departure informed by the historical development of the relations between the three concepts and Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological critique of modern science. The two analytical examples are Swedish Charlotte Engelkes’ and Peder Bjurman’s Svarta hål – en kvantfysisk vaudeville (2014) and Danish Hotel Pro Forma’s adult per­formance for children Kosmos+ En Big Bang forestilling om universets vidundre (2014).

History of science reveals complex combinations of science and the popular in theatri­cal events that raises the question if the audience’s understanding of the scientific sub­ject matter itself always was – or has to be – the purpose of the popular science perfor­mance, or if it rather was – and is – about spurring interest by inspiring sentiments of wonder and reflection on science’s impact on life and outlooks. Newer conceptual devel­opments also suggest that it is not always the case that theatre is a tool for sci­ence popularisation, as a specific genre science theatre, but that scientific information and concepts are artistically interpreted by theatre, and not always in ways affirmative of the science. This later variant is called science-in-theatre. The two genres are demon­strated through the analyses of Svarta hål and Kosmos+, the claim being that the first was an ambiguous exposition of science, i.e. science-in-theatre, whereas the second established an artistically visionary affirmation, as regular science theatre.

Author Biographies

Daria Skjoldager-Nielsen, Stockholm University

Daria Skjoldager-Nielsen. Holder of two MA degrees, in marketing and theatre studies, from University of Lodz. PhD candidate in theatre studies, Stockholm University. Member of Performance Studies international (PSi) working group Performance and Science. Vice-chairwoman of Rococo Foundation researching cultural institutions’ manage­ment and performance. Research interests: the theatrical event; new approaches to audience development, marketing and theatre; cultural policy.

Kim Skjoldager-Nielsen, Stockholm University

Kim Skjoldager-Nielsen. MA in theatre studies from University of Copenhagen. PhD candidate in theatre studies, Stockholm University. With International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR) elected ExComm member and founding co-convener of the working group Performance, Spirituality and Religion. Founding co-editor of the e-journal PRS – Performance, Religion and Spirituality. Member of the PSi working group Performance and Science and a participant in the Performance Studies Space Pro­gramme (PSSP). Research interests: performative aesthetics; spirituality; science and theatre; contemporary staged events.


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How to Cite

Skjoldager-Nielsen, D., & Skjoldager-Nielsen, K. (2018). Theatre, Science, and the Popular: Two Contemporary Examples From Scandinavia. Nordic Theatre Studies, 29(2), 137–161.



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