Writer: Fernanda Rocha
Editor: Lily McLeish
The final Fizzy Sherbet podcast, in this first series at least, concludes with perhaps the shortest piece in its run, an audio performance of Scientific by Fernanda Rocha that lasts less than 10 minutes. The Brazilian writer, who prepared the text in Portuguese and worked on the translation with a friend, wryly notes that English words are just shorter and more direct, but they still evoke the sensuous immersion of Scientific and its story about the boundaries of the body.
This miniplay, first performed via Zoom, makes a startling and vey effective audio transfer, as a female scientist is absorbed into the body of a creature she discovers. Whether this being is alive or dead, other worldly, animal or human, Rocha leaves to the listener to interpret as she takes us on an exploratory journey into this body which becomes a question of conquest, violation and ownership. Told entirely from the scientist’s perspective as a memory-filled lecture, in just a few minutes, Scientific raises plenty of interesting points about ethics, colonialism and the line between scientific research and desecration.
In staging Rocha’s first monologue, the audio effects are as insightful as the words themselves, creating a mystical atmosphere in which the almost breathless excitement of the scientist, performed by Sarah Boberg, is matched by the evocative sounds of the body squelching, echoing and enveloping as flesh physically gives way to flesh. Who the monster is in this scenario is deliberately unspecified, but the references Rocha draws upon stretch from Melville to Pinocchio and science fiction as the outer and inner worlds merge.
The remaining 50-minutes is dedicated to second interviewee, Molly Flatt, journalist and science fiction short story writer in discussion with Josephine Starte and Lily McLeish about the nature of fiction and the structures that both divide and unite science and arts writing. But first they discuss Flatt’s response to Scientific who revels in the ‘visceral physicality’ of Rocha’s writing, drawing allusion to similar cultural reference points that deal with foreign beings entering the human body.
Flatt’s enthusiasm is knowledgeable and engaging, providing a valuable discursive critique of Rocha’s short piece, helping to contextualize it in wider trends in science fiction writing as well as broader connections to Greek tragedy and Shakespeare. The interviewers in response develop a train of thought about who science fiction is for and assumptions made about the content of the genre particularly in theater where it is rarely staged as well as the competitive pushing of STEM subjects in schools. This is the joy of The Fizzy Sherbet podcast, hearing conversations evolve and shift, opening out endless links and broad ranging references.
This science fiction special is a long listen at nearly two hours with a comparatively short drama close to the beginning, but the two guests have much to contribute to understanding the themes and background to Scientific as well as its place in wider trends in both theater and literary writing. It’s a shame perhaps that these two interviews happen separately so we never hear Rocha and Flatt responding to each other’s ideas in a final panel, but this is proper theater studies discussion celebrating female writers that must surely return for a second season.