Ian McDiarmid stars in Mark Ravenhill's new translation of Bertolt Brecht's A Life of Galileo, which opened at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon on January 31, 2013, and is running through March 30.
The cast also includes Gethin Anthony as Cardinal Bellarmin, Matthew Aubrey as Andrea, Adam Burton as Vanni, Jake Fairbrother as Ludovico, Joel Gillman as Little Monk, Nia Gwynne as First Scholar, Paul Hamilton as Federzoni, Siu Hun Li as Very Thin Monk, Joan Iyiola, Youssef Kerkour as Philosopher/Monk, Chris Lew Kum Hoi as Cosimo de Medici, Susan Momoko Hingley as Ballad Singer's Wife, Patrick Romer as Very Old Cardinal/Senator, James Tucker as Bursar, Martin Turner as Sagredo/Cardinal Inquisitor, Philip Whitchurch as Cardinal Barberini/Ballad Singer and Sadie Shimmin as Mrs. Sarti.
Roxana Silbert directs. The play features production design by Tom Scutt, music and sound by Nick Powell, movement by Struan Leslie and lighting by Rick Fisher.
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Simon Tavener of whatsonstage.com writes: It's hard to pick out individuals for praise in what is a true ensemble performance. Matthew Aubrey, however, does stand out as the innocent and trusting Andrea. So eager to learn and to challenge his tutor Galileo, Aubrey takes us on his journey with great humour and warmth, and makes his disillusionment with his master's recantation perhaps the most moving moment of the evening.
Dominic Maxwell of The Times says: In any version, Mark Ravenhill's pithy new translation included, it's a play in which the rest of the cast revolves around Galileo. And McDiarmid is electrifying as a man trying to prove his point with a mixture of charm, arrogance and pure rationality. Wearing the shabby-smart clobber of a modern academic - only the emissaries of the Church tend to look 17th century in Tom Scutt's bare-stage design, played in front of a blue graph-paper backdrop - he's a man of reason. But he's a flim-flam man, too, when he wants to be. We root for him as he takes on those who treat facts as treachery, but we also see the cost his daughter pays for his principles... This is a lively rendition of a remarkably rich play whose account of the clash between evidence and vested interests is both timeless and, here and there, particularly pertinent. "One of the great pleasures of the human race is thinking," says Galileo, trying to rebut the notion that academic study is only worthwhile if it bolsters the free market.
Michael Billington of the Guardian writes: As with Howard Davies's 2006 production at the National, I was at first thrown by the updating: it seems odd to find a 17th-century debate about the solar system staged in contemporary clothes. But you soon forget that, because Brecht was writing as much about the present as the past. Galileo's endorsement of Copernican theories of the cosmos is subversive, precisely because it questions the existing religious and social order. And in this version of the text, which Brecht revised in 1947 in the shadow of Hiroshima, the recanting Galileo becomes a self-hating figure who betrays the scientist's responsibility to humanity.
Charles Spence of the Daily Telegraph says: I found myself gripped by this lively and ultimately moving production which makes big ideas zing and sing, and features a terrific performance from Ian McDiarmid as the scientist who maintained that the earth moved round the sun to the dismay of the Roman Catholic Church.