Friday, August 18, 2006


The Life of Galileo

Well, the kids are still away (hopefully learning some manners from their paternal grandparents), so the journey towards self-improvement that started last weekend with me reading newspapers for what felt like 48 hours straight, continued lastnight with a trip to the National Theatre to see The Life Of Galileo.

There was a time when prohibitive ticket prices would have given the likes of me an excuse to avoid such edifying, culturally elitist events, but that’s all changed thanks to the Travelex £10 ticket season, under which two thirds of the tickets must be sold for a tenner. Not sure who I have to thank (I suspect it might be Ken Livingstone), or indeed whether I should be thanking anyone — it was a bit of a marathon, and while the cheap ticket might have got my bum on a seat, it was a sore bum by the end of it.

Not that I didn't enjoy it. Anything about the battle between science and religion will usually grab my attention and hang on to it, and I was relieved to find that despite it being a play about a 17th-century scientist written by Bertolt Brecht and updated by David Hare, there wasn't much in it that went over my head. Then again, I quite often come out of these things under that impression, only to find out that I've missed the whole point, so I don't want to get too cocky.

What struck me most was that there was Galileo, making all his important discoveries, challenging the orthodox, religious version of how the world began and how we all got here, nigh on 400 years ago, and what are the papers full of now? Evolution versus creationism!

Linda, my usual theatre companion, who raised her eyebrows when I suggested it, but took a deep breath and agreed to come, was less struck by it. She said: 'You engage with all this stuff, I don't'. I told her about an article I had just read on Humanist Network News, about hasidic jews, who are reproducing at such a rate that their fundamentalist brand of judaism will be considered mainstream by the year 2075. 'Doesn't that scare you?'

'Not really' she said. Which made me wonder why it is that I do get so agitated about it all. Unless I live to the grand old age of 109 I'm not going to be around in the year 2075, so why do I care? Is it because I have children who will be around? It may seem ridiculous but though it must have been at the back of my mind, I hadn't really thought of it like that before. However I suppose that although I was brought up by atheists, it was only when I had to start answering my children’s questions that my interest in the subject was really fired up, so it must have something to do with concern for their future wellbeing.

Judging by the numbers of people crammed into the Olivier theatre’s 1,120 seats, and the range of ages (plenty of oldies but a girl along from us who couldn't have been more than nine) I'm not the only one, though I suspect from the warm but slightly weary applause at the end that, like me, most found it enjoyable and edifying, but way too long.

Thanks for this review. I am hoping to see it next week.
Was Katherine Toy in the cast?
I've just checked the cast list and no, there's no Katherine Toy listed. Julia Ford was very good as Galileo's housekeeper and his daughter was played by Elisabeth Dermot Walsh. Hope you enjoy it.
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