|"Intriguing and informative one-man show"|
by Edwin Reis for remotegoat on 11/02/15
Icarus Theatre fly into London on waxen wings, which, after this compelling production, show no sign of melting any time soon. ‘The Trials Of Galileo’ delivers a rich flow of insight and information into the mind of a man hailed as one of the fathers of modern science. From his home in Florence with his cherished telescope, to conversing with the Pope in the Vatican Gardens, we follow Galileo Galilei on his laboured journey to clear his name of heresy following the publication of his book, which had the audacity to sympathise with the Copernicus Theory – that the Earth orbits around the Sun, rather than vice versa.
Sustaining an audience’s attention in a one man show is no mean feat for an actor, but to say that Tim Hardy has been around the block is an understatement; his impressive CV includes spells with the RSC, on the West End, where he worked extensively with Peter Brook, and even international tours as an Opera singer. Hardy has previously worked with writer/director Nic Young on an episode of the BBC’s ‘Days That Shook The World’ called ‘Galileo’, and it was from here that the idea of this stage production was born. A collaborative project between the two ever since, the feeling of utter ownership and comfort that Hardy brings to the role is refreshing to behold. With seemingly minimal effort, he holds us in the palm of his hand for the duration, expertly manoeuvring through the peaks and troughs of hope and despair poor Galileo is subjected to, despite the unfortunate distractions of rather loud traffic – oh the perils of a pub theatre!
The writing, too, is faultless, and it would be easy to mistake the text for an early forgotten masterpiece by Stoppard or Bennett. There are some cracking lines, such as when Galileo describes the infamous Rack as a “verbal laxative”. Period-sounding enough to fit the world, yet contemporary enough to be easily digested, Young finds plenty of opportunity to lighten the tone, often peppering the dialogue with modern expletives, which for the most part feel perfectly natural.
The issue with a 70 minute monologue is, so often, how to create a feeling of time passing, and indeed location, without painfully obvious verbal exposition. The production suffers slightly here, with Galileo teleporting across Italy without much in the way of explanation. Jumping from retrospective analysis to in-the-moment-action, it is never quite clear where or when Galileo is supposed to be when he is addressing us directly.
This is a fine production, and a fantastic example of a writer and performer at the top of their game. The one query would be – why this story? Why now? Whilst intriguing, informative and entertaining, it is a struggle to relate much of the content to any contemporary issues. This is indeed an enthralling story, but on one level feels less like a play, and more like the best history lesson ever.
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