The Quantum Physics of my Heart is playing as part of the Vaults Festival. The festival is a big operation, with over 300 shows playing across three months. The Vaults is a great location; it’s huge and on the grittier side of hipster chic.
At the festival, Amy Tobias is showcasing her autobiographical creation The Quantum Physics of my Heart. It sells itself as a secondary school science lesson with 90’s vibes and boy crushes, and I’m ready for a bit of fun and heady nostalgia. As we enter, Tobias is handing out clear plastic bags filled with you’ll-need-this-later items herself, only moving when everyone has taken their seats. She stands on the stage and looks every bit the schoolgirl in a badly fitting shirt and green uniform tie.
Tobias is instantly likeable and engages the audience brilliantly. She takes us through her formative teenage years, roughly inserting scientific ideas in order to make sense of the world around her. For example, Tobias uses probability to discuss two little girls scraping their chins, and chaos theory to try and fathom why people are so unpredictable.
We’re introduced to different characters in Amy’s life through a booming speaker. Mr Murray, Amy’s Father and Mother all make audio appearances offering repeatable quips such as, “Not quite right Amy”, or some sage fatherly advice in which an inelegant link to science is drawn. However, the parents are peripheral characters.
Tobias moves quickly through her former selves, using lighting to signify her regression in age. In principle it’s a good method, but this isn’t used with enough emphasis. The movements need to be more pronounced and Tobias’s perky, charming demeanour isn’t altered as she moves between the ages of 13, 14 and 15 before finishing as a 16 year old. I wanted to be able to chart the progression of her years and experiences. Seeing as this story is autobiographical, I imagine Tobias is being faithful to her years, but the audience members who aren’t part of the narrative, need some signposting.
Tobias introduces the topic of sexual assault so unassumingly we almost don’t notice. She touches on blurred boundaries and crossed lines with a nervous laugh and quiet unease that leaves the audience shifting in their seats. A performance highlight is seeing Tobias try to return to a much loved childhood movie after being exposed to the realities of sexual assault and grooming, and finding it wanting. It’s a subtle, eerie and pivotal moment in Amy’s life, one where she realises she has gained an unwanted new knowledge of the world and must adapt to it.
This is only the second time I’ve been to The Vaults and watching The Quantum Physics of my Heart has made me excited for further viewings. Director, Roxy Cook, clearly has real affection for Tobias, and allows the honesty of her story to prevail from start to finish. As a result, Cook creates a likeable and appealing collaborative piece with tons of charisma and more than just a hint of teen angst.
The Quantum Physics of my Heart is playing at The Vaults until the 25 February 2018
Photo: Mann Bros Media