Dr Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine


Is there a mathematical equation for love and the behaviour of a beating heart? What can be retrieved from life’s catastrophes and wounds? When our windshield is blurred with rain and we’re wearing our reading glasses, can we learn to look in the rear view mirror and smile?

Doctor Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine, is the new stage production from award winning poet Martin Figura, produced by Melanie Abrahams and the good people at Tilt.  He turns to international mathematics guru Sir Erik Christopher Zeeman’s iconic machine, the moon and photographs to shed light on these pressing questions and to help him sort out love, loss and when to let go.

The show finds the adult life Martin made for himself, following his moving portrayal of the shocking events surrounding his mother’s death at the hand of his father (when Martin was just 9 years old) described in his show Whistle.

In a witty and tender script developed with support from Ross Sutherland, Figura, as he approaches sixty comes to terms with his own mortality.  On stage the titular catastrophe machine plays an active part in the proceedings, becoming a tool for marriage guidance and the deeply moving humanity of the poems.  It is illustrated with visual projections and an atmospheric soundscape from Andre Barreau and Karen Hall the team behind Whistle.  

The show blurs the edges of personal memory as he learns to move forwards and how (some) catastrophes eventually turn out for the best. He takes an American road trip with his teenage son and his Down’s Syndrome daughter engages in intense relationships with cartoon characters and leaves home for college.

Figura has a commanding yet genial stage presence, drawing out the wit in the words as his poetry come alive on the stage, illustrating how our pasts, presents and future blur. Doctor Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine will interest anyone charmed by Whistle while introducing him to new audiences.  It has showcased at then London Roundhouse and in the region in 2016 and will tour extensively from 2017.  Here are two reviews from London Grip …..well-told, moving, sometimes very funny and always engaging and Norwich Spybrave, confident and articulate.  And here’s an extract from the Norwich Arts Centre show intercut with me answering reasonable questions badly.