The Young Vic, London – until 1 July 2017
Part planetarium and part theatre-in-the-round, Life of Galileo invites us to look to the stars in an inspiring look at a revolutionary time for science. Some of the audience are able to sit (or lay) in the centre of the round with cushions and gaze up at the galaxy filled ceiling as it moves in a beautiful and magical way.
Brecht reminds us throughout that this is a play, using dance and song to make the play more surreal and to distance us from reality. Particularly entertaining is when Cowell announces the scene numbers throughout and the clever use of puppetry which explains what’s to come in each scene.
The actors spend their time before the show and during the interval moving around the stage and chatting with the audience which makes the play feel extremely immersive. The ensemble work very well, integrating with the people sat in the centre and cleverly moving into the action and switching between roles. The whole cast work like a seamless machine.
Life of Galileo looks at the momentous change in scientific exploration as well as Galileo’s personal sacrifice and the resistance he faced. Returning to the Young Vic after his performance in Yerma, Brendan Cowell takes on the role of the inspiring Galileo robustly and cleverly. He distinguishes the different sides of the man well. With clear divides between Galileo the father and Galileo the scientist and he is particularly cold and harsh to his daughter, Virginia (Anjana Vasan).
The play is lengthy and intense but with music by Tom Rowlands and extremely impressive projections, it’s exciting and forward-thinking. It’s vast and enlightening and a unique theatrical experience. Life of Galileo never takes itself too seriously but manages to make a number of scientific and political comments which remain relevant today.