Enlightenment Café creates award winning theatre that unites the beauty of science with the power of performance. Combining storytelling, education and spectacle in dynamic, participatory and entertaining events. 

The idea comes from the coffee houses of the 17th Century. These social hubs were "theatres of exchange" for new thinking in science and philosophy, politics and art.



Biodiversity-loss • Climate Change


Epidemiology • Human Rights


Water Security • Climate Change


Victorian Science & Medicine


    It’s difficult to imagine a more perfect venue than Summerhall for an event like Deadinburgh, the big, loud, challenging live zombie movie – with mass audience participation…the sheer horror-movie thrill of a zombie plague story played out around the looming Summerhall complex, as the audience – divided into six groups, each with a different experience – is herded along by shouting, panicky soldiers; we catch occasional glimpses of the advancing army of infected zombies, devouring a corpse in the yard, or attacking the troops. We are led into laboratories and lecture rooms to hear teams of real-life scientists from leading UK institutions – epidemiologists, virologists, neuroscientists, psychotherapists – explain the options available, and help us make our collective decision. The show achieves something special in so effectively patrolling the boundary between straightforward horror-movie excitement, and the powerful ethical and strategic questions raised by a crisis that threatens not only our own lives, but the survival of the whole city. And while there’s plenty of talk, at the moment, about bridging the gap between arts and science, this is a show that actually does it; and provides a good, exhausting, thought-provoking night out, into the bargain.


    Joyce McMillian
    It seemed like rather a lot was at stake in New Atlantis. We’re read a news report in the atrium of The Crystal, a weirdly beautiful glass oddity on the bank of the Thames, about a world in which clean, accessible water is scarce, and climate change’s devastating effects have finally been taken seriously. We are, we learn, agents of New Atlantis. We have around 90 minutes to explore the building, meet the staff of the departments of Industry, Reform and Defence, and then cast our deciding vote for one of their leaders to take New Atlantis (and, by extension, humanity) safely through the troubling times ahead. The beauty of what the Enlightenment Café have done in mingling scientists with actors is that it makes you completely unafraid to be curious, to prod at what they’re doing and talking about, to explore. The more we explored, the more real the science clearly was, the more obvious its effects on the world, the more we cared about the outcome of the decision we could make. Also; we could make a decision…Suddenly it mattered…I’m being asked to make a stark choice and I have to look at my own very real personal politics to do so. I have two personal criteria for pieces of performance; I want them to challenge me, and/or I want them to change me. New Atlantis challenged my politics and it change, well, two days later I stopped prevaricating and applied for my MSc.


    Mary Halton
    “We have three melancholics here,” says a Victorian gentleman to his alchemist colleague as I sit, freshly diagnosed, in a ‘gin distillery’ buried within the Old Vic Tunnels beneath London’s Waterloo. Feeling much better, I wander through the rabbit warren of tunnels, passing a makeshift theatre and a series of dimly lit rooms, each with its own scientist in residence, revealing the answers to questions you never knew you had. In one, I’m treated to details of some incredibly gruesome poisons and learn never to drink cider from a pewter tankard (the combination produces toxic lead acetate). In another I discover I’m not too bad at the Victorian pastime of mathematical puzzles. But these drop-in sessions are just one part of the Café. Soon I’m ushered into psychiatrist Tim McInerny’s office. Here, myself and five other “medical students” are guided through the examination of a patient from the Bethlem Hospital (played convincingly by one of the Café’s actors). Between them they give a stark insight into the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in the 1800s. The beauty of the event is the atmosphere – you truly believe you’ve stepped into another time; a world full of things you’re unlikely to see again. The Enlightenment Café  is an unmissable night of entertainment, intrigue, and debate – with a touch of education snuck in when you aren’t looking.


    Rebecca Hill


If you have any questions about the Enlightenment Cafe, or would like to know more about our work, please get in touch.
+44 (0)7861 384806
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