Stunted Trees and Broken Bridges

Written by Ben Musgrave / Produced by Theatre of Debate

Description

After the death of his Mother, Emerson experiences volatile episodes, leading to his expulsion from school and ultimately a violent outburst . Despite Emersonʼs increasingly erratic behaviour and hostility, his girlfriend, Hayley, and sympathetic friend, Miles, continue to offer their support, encouraging him to seek help. Facing trial and becoming increasingly concerned about his inability to control his behaviour, Emerson reluctantly agrees to undergo a brain scan. This scan will determine if he has a brain abnormality and can therefore plead diminished responsibility in court. The outcome of the scan will govern his future, but how reliable is this new technology, and what are the consequences of using it in this way?

Set in the near future, Ben Musgrave’s haunting play, provides a starting point for debating the importance of brain research for the enrichment of human life and for the understanding of diseases and disorders of the nervous system.

Developed with the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, The Royal Society and supported by the Wellcome trust.

The live production and debate of Stunted Trees and Broken Bridges toured schools throughout the UK and has been seen by over 4,951 students and teachers. Stunted Trees and Broken Bridges was performed at the Royal Albert Hall for Royal Albert Hall Education throughout Brain Awareness Week 2013. The film of the production was screened at Phoenix Picturehouse, Oxford, Exeter Picturehouse, The Regal, Henley, Stratford East Picturehouse, Duke’s at Komedia, Brighton Picturehouse at FACT, Liverpool.

Details

Focus: Ethical issues raised by advances in neuro technology and neuro justice, brain, novel neuro technologies. Identity, mental health and wellbeing, freewill.

Who is Stunted Trees and Broken Bridges suitable for: Teachers can use the project across subjects and curricula, specifically in Science, PSHE, Citizenship, English, Drama and SMSC – spiritual, social, moral, social and cultural development. Appropriate for both 14 – 16 and 16+ age groups. Also suitable for Science Communicators, medical students, nurses and health workers.

Length: 59 minutes

Full Film: Available through Theatre of Debate, with subtitles by Stagetext

Resources: Available for teachers and students, science communicators and health workers

Synopsis

Set in the not-so-distant future, and centres around the perceived mental breakdown of protagonist Emerson – a young man who has been deeply affected by the recent death of his mother. He begins to spiral out of control when he seriously injures a local drug dealer but has absolutely no recollection of the event. With his behaviour becoming increasingly threatening and unpredictable, his girlfriend Hayley and fellow pupil Miles continue to support and help him whilst he struggles to differentiate between reality and his sub consciousness.

Emerson is reluctantly coerced into having a brain scan by forensic neuroscientist Jeannette – who has been hired by the police. The outcome of scan will determine significant outcomes for Emerson; whether he has a brain abnormality which will enable him to plead diminished responsibility in court but could also harbour potentially devastating consequences for his young life. But how reliable is this new technology and what are the consequences of using it in this way?

Characters

Emerson, young and misunderstood, finds his aggressive nature has got him into serious trouble. He undergoes a brain scan to see if he can plead diminished responsibility.

Hayley, his girlfriend is brave, compassionate and in love with Emerson. She stands by him through the trial and begins to take an interest in neurotechnology herself.

Miles, weedy and cunning, befriends Hayley and Emerson for motives that at first seem unclear. He has a strong interest in science and the brain.

Jeannette, the forensic investigator first meets Emerson after his has committed a crime, she is part of the defence that can plead diminished responsibility but what consequences will this have for Emerson?

“Y Touring has shown that theatre can be a powerful tool for the communication of science to a wide audience.”

“After the production many were surprised to discover how strongly they felt about a ‘scientific issue’. They were also surprised about how complex the issue became the deeper they delved – instead of answers, only more questions.”

Developed in partnership with

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics
The Royal Society the British Neuroscience Association
The Association of Medical Research charities

Supported by the Wellcome trust and The Royal Albert Hall Education.

Created in collaboration with

Professor Jonathan Cole, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Clinical Neurosciences, University of Southampton

Professor Jenny Kitzinger, Professor of Communications Research, Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University

Dr Sophie Petit-Zeman, Scientific Advisor to Y Touring Theatre Company

Dr Liz Philpots, Head of Research, Association of Medical Research Charities

Professor Steven Rose, Emeritus Professor of Neurobiology, Department of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences, Open University and Emeritus Professor of Genetics and Society, Gresham College, London

Professor Sophie Scott, Wellcome Senior Research Fellow in Basic Biomedical Science and Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London

Elaine Snell, Chief Operating Officer, British Neuroscience Association

Sarah Walker-Robson, Acting Communications Manager, Nuffield Council on Bioethics

Professor Vincent Walsh, Professor of Human Brain Research, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London

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