The Tables Turned - Cast

The Tables Turned – Cast

In Victorian Britain, thousands of people were turning tables. Participants at séances across the country heard long-departed voices, levitated musical instruments, and channelled strange languages, breaching supposed barriers between the natural and the supernatural, soul and matter, the known and the unknown, the quick and the dead. Well-known members of the scientific community, including co-discoverer of natural selection Alfred Russel Wallace and chemist William Crookes, were among them: active enthusiasts of spiritualism, and regular séance-goers. Others, such as Michael Faraday, were more sceptical, and denounced this popular pastime in the periodical press. Many fell somewhere in between on a spectrum of beliefs. But how were people supposed to judge what was going on, and who could be relied on for expert guidance? Was science able to determine whether the séance was real?

In ‘The Tables Turned’, the British Society for the History of Science’s ‘Strolling Players’ visit the world of Victorian spiritualism. Travelling back in time to the early 1860s, they take their audience to a meeting of a scientific society to question processes of observation, fact-making, objectivity and reasoning, as well as the relationship between expert men of science and the wider public. This highly engaging event uses film, role-play, and debate to bring key issues from the history and philosophy of science to life. A Wellcome Trust grant as well as funding and support from the BSHS was used towards the development and performance of this activity.


‘The Tables Turned’ was trialled at the BSHS Annual Conference in Leicester in 2009, and has been performed in full at:

  • The British Science Festival in Surrey, September 2009
  • The Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, May 2010 and June 2010
  • The Big Bang Science and Engineering Fair, London ExCel centre, March 2011
  • The Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Cambridge, March 2011
  • The 24th International Congress of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Manchester, July 2013
  • The Portico Library, Manchester, July 2013


  • The Tables Turned: the script (by Sabine Clarke)
  • The Tables Turned: the film
  • Poster for the Guildford production [jpg]
  • Poster for the Cambridge production [pdf]
  • Photos from the performances
  • Cast and Crew

    Mr Henry Boyle: Ryan Johnson (film)

    Mr Arthur Brookes: Mike Brown (Leicester and Oxford); Geoff Belknap (Surrey, Oxford, London, Cambridge, Manchester)

    Miss Arabella Cloud: Sabine Clarke

    Miss Lizzy Lightman: Melanie Keene (film)

    Mr(s) Robert(a) Middleton: Julia Hyland (Leicester, Surrey, Oxford, London); Nanna Kaalund (Manchester)

    Mr James Wendell: Tom Lean

    Madame Chairperson: Melanie Keene (Leicester, Surrey, Oxford, London, Cambridge, Manchester); Lizzy Hunter (Oxford)

    For more information about ‘The Tables Turned’, please contact [email protected]