Review: A Life Of Galileo

A Life Of Galileo

Swan Theatre, Stratford

Royal Shakespeare Company,

Until 30 March 2013

by Richard Lutz

What you know is true and  how much you compromise when under pressure  is  a major theme in all our lives.

You are convinced of something, maybe based on hard facts or evidence you have witnessed, and along comes an overpowering institution that knows how  dangerous  the simple truth can be.

They are wrong and you are right. But you bend.

You recant.

And recant  Italian scientist Galileo did back in the early 17th century when he found out that the earth circled the sun and not vice versa.

The Catholic Church wanted to  believe in an heliocentric universe.  To deny it raised too many horny questions.  So it threw the astronomer in front of an inquisitor. And he turned his back on what he knew.

German writer Bertolt Brecht wrote the original play while the Nazi state slowly enslaved Europe. English writer Mark  Ravenhill has now re written it for the RSC.

And despite the heavyweight themes, it zips along. Big ideas are flung across the theatre and given wings thanks to snappy imaginative direction by Roxanna Silbert. She uses many a cute  trick to create that Brechtian  idea of theatre as intelligent lively entertainment that gives flight to very human dilemmas.

Ian McDiarmid ( yup, my friends,  he was in Star Wars) gives a stand out performance as a likeable, wry,  self aware man who, for his own reasons, does recant and publicly deny what he knows.

And his punishment- a decade of solitude where he quietly kept going with his studies that would slowly alter stultified  ideas with fact based science. Maybe he didn’t compromise that much after all.

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One thought on “Review: A Life Of Galileo

  1. There’s actually a load of fiction developed around Galileo. He never said eppur si move or whatever. The reason he was challenged by the church was because he portrayed the pope as a fool, nothing to do with any heresy of his ideas. Furthermore the pre-copernican theory was far from as stupid as now widely assumed. For one thing the new theory required the stars to be absolutely incredible distances away. Secondly there is an optical illusion that makes them seem a lot closer than they actually are.

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