"STUNNING" was the only word in my head as the curtain came down at the end of this brilliant new production.
Essentially chronicling a clash of two brilliant minds and huge egos, this was theatre entertainment at its best.
Although featuring a strong ensemble cast all doing their bit and doing it well, the astounding stage chemistry between Ken Bones as Barberini and David Troughton as Galileo was what really carried the show.
The future pope's initial awe and fascination at the mathematician's discoveries and later battle with his own conscience as he came down hard on his one-time friend was all brilliantly portrayed by Ken Bones.
Troughton's performance too was pure class - an energetic portrayal of genius desperate to be unleashed but faced with a church-controlled society determined to hold him back for its own possibly sinister reasons.
And the scenes between the two were absolutely sparkling - especially the final face off. Richard Goodwin's crackling script has much resonance today, with the clash of the secular and the sacred an eternally debated issue.
The set, lighting and costumes were magnificent, the opulence of the era being displayed in all its glory - or at least the glory that a small stage and the budget could allow - and the revolving centre of the stage was an inspired touch.
This flawless production is a must-see, and it deserves to transfer to London like so many other innovative and brave new Yvonne Arnaud productions.
Tickets may still be available for the last few nights of this world-premiere run, which ends on Saturday, April 12. Call the box office on (01483) 440000.Aisha lqbal
The Earth is the centre of the Universe, the sun, the stars and the moon circle round it. Above the Earth is Heaven, below are the fires of Hell; this is the cosmology of the great Aristotle and the basic tenet of the Roman Catholic faith. To disagree with this view is heresy and heretics will have their souls cleansed with fire. With that pronouncement by Cardinal Barberini (Ken Bones), the abject Bruno (Eric Carte) is dragged off and the stage is lit by the roaring flames of his "cleansing". This is Rome of 1600.
Terrifyingly realistic is the best way to describe The Hinge of the World now having its World Premiere at Guildford's Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. Ken Bones, first as Cardinal Barberini then being promoted to Pope Urban VIII, is utterly convincing as the most powerful man in Europe, determined that no philosopher, mathematician nor astronomer shall be permitted to express views on creation contrary to those held by the Roman Catholic Church.
Galileo Galilei, however, embraced the theory put forward by Copernicus in 1543 that it was the earth that was turning and going round the sun. In a brilliant performance by David Troughton, he sets out to try and convince the rest of Europe that Copernicus was right, only to tall foul of the Pope and the Inquisition.
The props for this production are outstanding, a great ramped table, beautifully carved for Galileo to demonstrate that gravity is a constant whatever the size of the object, and superb early telescopes and a microscope and various reproductions of different pieces of equipment with which he said that God had opened his eyes to his Creation.
Of the many characters in this production, Galileo's assistant, Father Castelli, played by James Tucker, came out well as a man struggling to reconcile the teachings of the Church with what he was now learning from his master. A fine performance too from Alexandra Moen as Galileo's daughter as a nun. In the 34 years that the play spans, David Troughton gradually ages to a frail old man at the time he faces the Pope and the Inquisition. A most impressive characterisation.
The transformation of the stage for this set would seem to make it impossible to dismantle and take on tour. Francis O'Connor has created a wonderful setting of black mirrored flooring, a revolving stage with the centre moving in the opposite direction and a circular ring of curtains pulled round by two nuns and in the time it takes them to get round the scene inside has changed. At night, the stage is transformed by hundreds of stars, scores of candles burning on shelves around Galileo's study and the view of a wonderfully detailed moon visible through a window.
Edward Hall's production of Richard Goodwin's story is imaginative and convincingly cast with superb costumes and brilliant design. Whether whizzing characters around on a revolving stage will offset what must be by its very nature a very wordy, static play, will be enough to ensure its success, only time will show.The Hinge of the World runs until at the Guildford Yvonne Arnaud until April 12.
As the lights go down, suddenly dozens of candles on racks around the stage flicker to life in a moment of pure drama. Suddenly we are looking at the twinkling night sky - the perfect backdrop for Galileo's cosmic challenge to faith. Galileo is a man who looks at the evidence and believes what he sees - an approach which sets him on a collision course with the church.
And it's an approach which makes for two hours of absorbing and provocative theatre at Guildford's Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. Playwright Richard N Goodwin has written speeches for the likes of John F Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson and AI Gore. But he's clearly equally adept at turning speech into debate, pitching Galileo and the Pope against each other in a thrilling, impassioned argument in which all is at stake.
David Troughton gives a compelling performance at Galileo, the impetuous enthusiast, a brilliant mind incapable, it seems, of rooting in the real world the implications of the truth he seeks. Against him is Ken Bones, the friend who becomes the Pope and so becomes his enemy.
Quite how balanced the argument is will ultimately depend on you, the audience, to determine. But the sparks fly as two towering performances clash on stage. The reds, whites and blacks of the costumes make this is a visual feast, and the lighting by Ben Ormerod is stunningly done.
But it's also a feast for the mind, one that is bound to set you thinking. This isn't dry historical drama. It's a moment in history brought to life in its full passion and power. Director Edward Hall captures the full intensity and movement of two .fearsome intellects locked in mortal combat. Costume, lighting and staging underline the drama - though just once or twice the symbolism does tumble into the slightly annoying. Once too often and for far too long, the rest of the cast revolves around a central Galileo slowly revolving in the opposite direction.A piece of this subtlety doesn't need such obviousness. We know Galileo is out of sync. That's the whole point... All the same, to stage the world premiere of a piece such as The Hinge of the World is a genuine coup for the Yvonne Arnaud.
Stupendous, amazing, informative, brilliant..... need I say more! You will now have the impression that I rather liked this show. The story, based on historical fact, and written by the man who was senior speechwriter to John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson, is of Galileo and his attempt to convince Pope Urban VIII that - contrary to the believe of the Catholic church - the earth was not the centre of the universe, but, in fact, revolved around the sun. Such beliefs were regarded as heresy, and a denial of the existence of God. Galileo's reply was "Ido not believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use". Makes sense to me! Sadly for Galileo, actual physical proof of his views was not available until nearly two centuries after his death, and Pope Urban had him put under house arrest, although previously (when he was Cardinal Maffeo Barberini) Galileo had enjoyed his patronage. At least Galileo fared better than his predecessor, Bruno, who - in 1600 - was burned to death for his heretic views. His statue now stands in the Camp di Fiori in Rome, where this horrific execution occurred.
The action begins with Galileo demonstrating his ‘inclined plane' discoveries, where a ball - whatever its size - takes the same amount of time to travel down a track. The same ball will also continue its progress going up a track, seemingly defying gravity. His enthusiasm is so infectious that we all really want to learn more.
Now a group of senators arrive to inspect the new invention - the telescope - and are amazed to discover how far they can see - one senator commenting that he had better instruct his wife to be sure to close the shutters in future!
Francis O'Connor's set had me wide-eyed with wonder. Slightly reminiscent of his set for the Tempest (seen recently at the Yvonne Arnaud) in that there was the same shiny black floor and, when the 'candles' were lit around the room a myriad of lights were reflected in every surface. The centre of the stage was a revolving floor, with a map of the world in gold, and, when the lights came on, and more lights descended from above it became an observatory and we were among the stars. A very clever and effective design. Another small, but effective, touch was the fact that the scene-shifters were dressed in black hooded cloaks, making them at times almost invisible, so the scenes seemed to change almost by magic.
The play, I think, is superb - an exploration of the way science, religion, politics and wars (it being the time of the 30 years war in Europe) intermingle and shape our lives, and the dialogue has a flow and rhythm which speed us along with it - and suggests to us a modern 'Shakespeare'. It is no surprise to discover that almost all the excellent actors are very well experienced in Shakespearean productions.
This was a period when "the door of the spirit was beginning to close, that to scientific knowledge beginning to open" - hence the title 'The Hinge of the World'.
A really excellent play, superbly presented and directed. I urge everyone to see it.Review by Sheila Connor for Theatreworld Internet Magazine.
Standing on opposite poles - Surrey Advertiser, Friday 4th April 2003
IT is a measure of regard in which the Yvonne Arnaud is held, that it has been chosen to produce the world premiere of a new play The Hinge of the World. Not just the premiere, but the only performance. Unless the production goes to the West End. If it doesn't, there's no justice, for this is a powerful, involving play, immaculately acted and directed by Edward Hall. There's an ingenious flexible set and the costumes, dominated at times by a clutch of crimson cardinals, place us firmly in 17th century Italy. The language too, is of its time and has a Shakespearean ring to it.
We are in the world of Galileo and he is publishing his theory that the earth revolves around the sun. His friend, Cardinal Barberini admires him and is fascinated by his inventions. But after he becomes Pope Urban the 8th and Galileo's ‘Dialogue’ becomes a 17th century best-seller things change. Horrified by the thought that if men's minds were capable of understanding the universe then men would be as gods, Pope Urban requires his old friend to adjust all his works and Galileo is banished.
It's a play which will absorb you completely, written by Richard Goodwin who was responsible for many of President Kennedy's speeches.The two main protagonists are superb. David Troughton makes Galileo a man of enormous, childlike enthusiasm, totally immersed in his work. He's bumptious, cocksure, self-absorbed, and yet tremendously appealing. His faith never falters but he is required by the representative of this faith on earth to deny what he knows to be true. "I must not think. But still I think". It's a towering performance buttressed and enhanced by that of Ken Bones as the Pope. The scene in which the two face each other in duelling mode, using words not weapons is a great piece of theatre.
The saint and the philosopher stand at the hinge of the world. On one side is reason and scientific knowledge. On the other is faith and the life of the spirit. It runs until April 12.
Like most pupils my attention span at school was at times limited. The story of Galileo Galilei was one such subject, but this world premiere production based on Goodwin's script 'Downright thrilling' certainly fills that gap in a constructive and memorising way.
David Troughton is Galileo, the brilliant philosopher and inventor whose discoveries come in direct conflict with the Church. His main protagonist was Maffeo Barberini (Ken Bones) who later becomes Pope Urban VIII. The theme of this play may be difficult to comprehend nowadays but in the settings of the 17th Century Galileo's discoveries amounted to heresy. Through the telescope he invented the Church only saw a threat to them because it proved the earth was not the centre of the universe unlike their teachings.
What a terrific and shattering production this turned out to be, and leaves you thinking long after the end of the show. The set added to this impact by sheer large size yet fairly simple structures. The many shelves of candles coupled with the dramatic sky at night scenes created a stunning atmosphere.
It will be difficult not to be stirred by this play especially by the highly charged performance by David Troughton and Ken Bones. One particular example are the scenes where Galileo is being metaphorically torn apart by the Pope. It is like a war of attrition as he seeks to destroy the very mind of the philosopher.
This is a winning combination from Richard Goodwin whose credits include writing speeches for JFK and LBJ, and the highly acclaimed director Edward Hall of 'Rose Rage' fame.
A memorable evening that provides an opportunity to reflect upon the bravery of a man who opened up the frontiers of the mind to the benefit of all.Robert Wright
IT WAS a clash of the Titans on Tuesday last week, as Pope Urban VIII and Galileo Galifei clashed over the disparities of religion and mathematics. Another world premiere at the Yvonne Arnaud, the play was written by Richard Goodwin - speechwriter for JFK and Lyndon BJohnson. But it is perhaps his background in politics that made the play come unstuck - at times the piece felt like a dramatised history lesson, albeit a very well dramatised history lesson. Despite an astounding performance from David Troughton as the philosopher Galileo, the play left something lacking. Whereas the best drama is rather like an onion - layer upon layer - this play came across more as polemic, like a political debate. Some aspects of the production were excellent - the ideas, the parallels drawn between then and now - so, in many ways it was well drawn as a whole.
It was fascinating to see the way in which scientific and philosophical advancements were judged in terms of whether or not they could be backed up with scripture. How truth becomes a many faceted thing- not a single statement of fact, but a myriad of meanings always shifting. "Truth", says Pope Urban, "is a modern prejudice". And it has two aspects: "One is the word of God, the other is merely opinion."
It was intelligent, thought provoking and relevant - all essential components of theatre - yet it lacked a layer of humanity, which was sacrificed to the arguments being exposed.
There were moments of sharp wit - when Galileo proudly disproves Aristotle’s theory by showing ice floating in water - the men of the cloth are concerned about whether such a discovery is backed up by the Scriptures, "The Judeans had little experience with ice" comes the reply.
But a play which relies too heavily on exposition, risks over burdening, even patronising the audience - and this might have worked better if some things had been left unspoken or implied, rather than explained in all their minutiae. The research that had gone into the script was incredible, but I would have liked to see the play try to create something larger than itself - be more than just a sum of its parts.
Having said that, it was a credit to the two principals, David Troughton and Ken Bones, that they made it work as a piece of theatre. Their performances served as a reminder that theatre is an act of simultaneous creation, and of the creative force required of actors to make theatre work.
Some aspects of the design and style of the production were inspired. The revolving circle within the stage, and the geometrical shapes that made up the set, served as a physical manifestation of Galileo’s work, and the ongoing debate as to whether the earth moved round the sun or vice versa.
These were perhaps obvious choices - maybe even a little heavy handed, but the simplest things are often the hardest to achieve, and on the whole the design served the play well.
To Ed Hall's credit, he is never one to shy away from a challenge - many doubted that Rose Rage would work and he proved everyone wrong with his superb work.
And this, too, is a play with huge potential. The natural drama of the story is obvious, but if it is to fulfil its potential, some of the detail needs to be stripped away and humanity be allowed to shine through.Juliet Horsley
The Herald, Friday April 4th 2003
The Hinge of the World, at the Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford, this week and next, is a truly remarkable piece of theatre. Whatever your creed and your knowledge, or otherwise, of science, this powerful and atmospheric drama will grip your heart and mind. Written by Richard N Goodwin, former speechwriter to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, it has a richly woven text with a thread of iridescent humour running through it. The set, ranged around with row upon row of white candles and a central revolve overhung with circular, gauzy curtains, is evocative of the stifling power of the 17th century Catholic Church. Yet, at the same time its spaciousness has Galileo and his telescope at the centre of this universe, with the action revolving around him, as the earth revolves around its sun.
And that, in essence, is the central theme of the play. Galileo's fertile and original brain presents him with an unthinkable conclusion: the earth Moves. And with this comes the realisation that Copernicus's hypothesis that in a solar system, the earth is not the centre of the universe, must be right and is indeed flying in the face of the teachings of the Catholic scriptures.
Science apart, and there is a fascinating recreation of an experiment in motion, this is the story of two, once like-minded men whose convictions and fears set them irrevocably against each other. Into this battlefield, which is echoed in the war waged by the Catholic Church for the souls of its Protestant European neighbours and the inhabitants of "savage America", are drawn the friends and acolytes of both men.
This is not simply a story of blind faith or overweening ambition and it has many echoes of today's troubled planet. Barberini, later Pope Urban VIII (Ken Bones) and Galileo (David Troughton), both secure in their faith and open to the wonders of their age, have much in common. But "no one is safe from power" and "obedience is all". As the play opens, heresy is bloodily punished and the fear of falling foul of the church's teaching is tangible. While the world is impressed by Galileo's many "wonders and marvels" mathematics "is not a magician". His deeply sincere work, to glorify not detract from God, is misunderstood in a world where "truth is not enough".
In a global world where there can be no "above and below", those who understand and believe in these con-cepts are in danger of becoming like gods in the eyes of the church. But this is an intensely human battle in which thought may be taken prisoner but can never be quenched. That said, there are moments when its message is in danger of being over-stated. Room for some discrete editing, perhaps, to remove moments of unnecessary repetition.
Ken Bones as the ambitious pope with a taste for elegance and beauty is magnificent. Thoughtful, devious, and impassioned in turn, his performance is spellbinding. David Troughton's powerful and empathetic performance as Galileo makes him every inch the passionate thinker, full of wild enthusiasm for his subject, yet mindful of his faith. The evocative music is composed by Simon Slater and Alexandra Moen as Maria Celeste, Galileo's daughter, sends chills up the spine with her pure voice.
Running until April 12, this world premiere production, superbly directed by Edward Hall, is a must for all true lovers of theatre. It is a tour de force which leaves you with deeply ingrained impressions of the sheer beauty of its setting, the stature of its players, and the immense scope of its creator.
Less haste... but more, please... A show which charts the life and persecution of Galileo premieres in Guildford -and our critic Jeff Thomson, considers it a triumph.BBC Southern Counties, Friday April 4th 2003
"The Hinge of the World" - Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford Thurs 27 March - Sat 12 April
"The Hinge of the World" is premiered this at Guildford and while arguably a play of this complexity is still in a tryout phase it remains, at core, a triumph. James Barber from the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre is gambling that the production - together with award winning director Edward Hall - will attract audiences for two and a half weeks: it deserves it. Hall and playwright Richard N. Goodwin have blended a provoking script, design, lighting and direction into a splendid celebration of theatre.
Set in 16th century Italy the production stalks the 'dangerous' growth of scientific inquiry versus the passionate protection of 'unprovable faith': we have the ancient urge for spiritual fulfilment in conflict with the irresistible needs for explanation and logic. The opposing sides are personified by Pope Urban VIII and scientist philosopher, Galileo Galilei.
Played against a stunning set [realised by Francis O'Connor] we are taken through Galileo's early experiments into gravity, mass, motion and magnification. It's done at a breakneck speed which tends to deny sustained experimentation or frustrating failures: this Act 1 pacing did not indicate to me [on Wednesday night at least] the distrait genius of Galileo but suggested a 'science foundation course' from a 'crammer college'. It's just a point.
It is in Act 2, in my judgement when the production [currently] comes into its own. It reflected for me the fear, corruption and overarching power that the Roman Church of the time and Inquisition possessed. That it does so in a deliberately languid, toying, manner is all the more compulsive.
David Troughton as the blustering genius Galileo engages our support and identification. It is Galileo who "thanks the God of Creation for his talent" and is bewildered that he is perceived as a heretic and dangerous antichrist. Ken Bones brings a convincing obsession and menace to Pope Urban. The cast - and a superb technical team who melt expertly into the story - condone, connive and condense a brutalising segment of history. Galileo, I learned, while escaping execution spent much of his life under house arrest.
Despite my comments this play remains a wonderful achievement. See it!
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