Secret Life of Humans

David Byrne’s The Secret Life of Humans is a captivating insight in to what it means to be part of human civilisation. Reflecting on the 'ascent of man' - to the complex, interconnected world we live in today. Adapted from Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, this collaboration between the New Diorama and Greenwich Theatre is a unique and charming play brimming with rich eloquent text and extremely clever stage craft.

This is a unique and charming play brimming with rich eloquent text and extremely clever stage craft.

University professor Ava (strongly played by Stella Taylor) is on the brink of losing everything until she meets Jamie (Andrew Strafford-Baker plays the role with an affable likability) on a casual Tinder date and he just happens to be the fictitious grandson of renowned scientist Dr. Jacob Bronowski. Luckily for Ava, the work of Dr. Bronowski (wonderfully played by Richard Delaney) is at the heart of her research.

Jamie is enamoured by the sharp and inquisitive Ava, especially her desire to find more about the man she has spent her entire career analysing. Her interest in Jamie is piqued when she discovers that Dr. Bronowski kept a secret, alarmed office that no one bar Bronoswki had ever entered. As Ava convinces Jamie to let her see what’s behind the door, a spool of hidden secrets is unravelled leaving Jamie wishing he never knew the real extent of what his grandfather’s brain was capable of.

Curiosity and a desire to learn pulses through Bryne’s script, weighing in the balance of whether science can ever be totally good or bad. It is these ethical issues that surround the work of the real life Dr. Bronowski, who in The Ascent of Man argued that there is no such thing as absolute knowledge, and those that claim it are just "opening the doors to tragedy".

Through the multiple narratives of Ava, Jamie, Dr. Bornoswki and wife Rita (Olivia Hirst), and their friend George (Andy McLeod) The Secret Life of Humans begins to unfold how love, relationships and connections have kept mankind alive for thousands of years. These themes are beautifully framed with the gorgeous projection design from Zakk Hein, photographs and videos of the late doctor mesmorisingly whirl around the cast throughout. John Maddox’s aerial design creates the illusion of the cast walking horizontally against the backdrop, another fantastic feat. It’s clear from the joint direction of Byrne and Kate Stanley that their goal was to emphasise the infinite possibilities of both science and art, and their clever use of the stage did this perfectly.

There are times when the fabrication of the script seems somewhat jarring, most particularly the believability of Ava and Jamie’s first date turning into a late night exposé of his grandfather’s personal archives. However, the company did a good job at adapting and theatrically devising Harari’s non-fiction book Sapiens…’ but the moments of implausibility need fine tuning.

Moreover, the revelations that Jamie discovers inside his grandfather’s locked office aren’t necessary as earth shattering as the play makes out. Instead they illuminate the core moral interrogation of how civilisation can utilise science for advancement rather than destruction, even if it means discovering some difficult home truths.

Reviews by Niall Hunt

New Diorama Theatre

Secret Life of Humans


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

In 1949, Dr Jacob Bronowski installs a secret, alarmed room in his house. Fifty years later his grandson discovers his secrets, unearthing his explosive role in twentieth century history, and its ripples throughout six million years of human history.

New Diorama Theatre are proud to present the London premiere of Secret Life of Humans following a sell-out run at last summer’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The show is inspired by Yuval Harari’s international bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and the life of celebrated mathematician and television presenter Dr Jacob Bronowski and was written by New Diorama’s Artistic & Executive Director David Byrne, co-directed with Idle Motion’s Kate Stanley and devised by the company behind NDT’s award-winning productions of Kubrick3 and Down and Out in Paris & London.

Secret Life of Humans is a New Diorama Theatre production, co-produced with Greenwich Theatre and The Pleasance. The show is also supported by Arts Council England and PRS For Music Foundation.

Most Popular See More

Back to the Future - The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £33.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £15.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Mousetrap

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets