The Selfish Gene: The Musical

Selfish-Gene Mairi Macleod in New Scientist:

I couldn't imagine how Richard Dawkins's iconic book The Selfish Gene could be turned into an Edinburgh Festival Fringe show, billed as the world's first “biomusical”. But you know what? Bex Productions has managed to pull it off.

Jonathan Salway has a background in theatre, not biology, but when he read Dawkins's book, the clarity of writing, the fascinating subject matter and even the humour so inspired him that he felt compelled to transform it into musical comedy and set about dissecting the book to write script and songs with the help of fellow writer Dino Kazamia and music by Richard Macklin.

In the show a fusty Oxford professor, played by Salway, tries to lecture the audience on the fundamentals of evolutionary theory. Meanwhile, the Adamson family share the stage, going about their daily trials of life, unwittingly providing examples of the points he's making. He frequently interrupts and explains to them why they're feeling and behaving the way they are, and sporadically gets involved in their lives along the way.

The family is played by four fresh and enthusiastic youngsters, all former drama students of Salway himself, and they helpfully wear T-shirts announcing who they are: Mum (Emma Seigell), Dad (James Barnes), Son (Olly Towner) and Daughter (Heather Pegley), but later swap for other roles, and even the live musicians contribute the odd line.

The show opens with the song We Are Machines Made By Our Genes, and the prof tries to push the idea that our genes make us selfish – look at how female praying mantises eat the heads of their copulating mates and gulls eat their neighbours' chicks, given the chance.