"An unmissable night of entertainment, intrigue, and debate – with a touch of education snuck in when you aren’t looking." 
New Scientist


By transporting audiences to the Age of Reason, one of the greatest eras of scientific and philosophical discovery, The Enlightenment Café demonstrates the transient nature of scientific truth and our understanding of the world.

The transit of Venus is upon us, the rarest of all predictable astronomical phenomena. This exceptional astronomical event has caused a defect in the fabric of spacetime, a rip that allows us to travel back to 1882, the last time Venus crossed the surface of the sun.

Step into a world of aesthetes, geeks, bon-viveurs and enquiring minds. Attend ward rounds at the Royal Bethlem Hospital, experiment with the inebriating alchemy of gin distillation, learn how the Bunsen Burner changed our view of the galaxy, dabble in revivification and purchase poison that could help "elevate" your social situation.

Sometimes it is in looking back that we understand just how far we have come.
Cast included:

Antony Antunes, Victoria Jane Appleton, Liza Callinicos, Angus Dunican, Cleo Felstead, Marie Fortune, Luisa Guerreiro, Lewis Hart, Emma MacLennan & Arron Millard. 

The Experts:

Quentin Cooper, BBC Radio 4′s The Material World
Claire Benson, Fire and Explosions Scientist
Stuart Clark, Author and Astronomer
Kathryn Harkup, Chemist, Vampirologist and Poison Scientist
Tim McInerny, Psychiatrist
Alex Bellos, Author and Mathematician
Andy Holding, Molecular Biologist
Helen Keen, Comedian and Space Enthusiast
Paolo Viscardi, Natural History Curator and Mermaid Anatomist

Creative Team:

Writer/Director: Barra Collins
Set & Costume Design: Sean Turner
Music: Perhaps Contraption & Les Moineaux de Paris
Images: Tristan Appleby
Video: Brain Grant
Producer: Andy Franzkowiak


Rebecca Hill
New Scientist
“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…an unmissable night of entertainment, intrigue, and debate – with a touch of education snuck in when you aren’t looking.



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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