Life of Galileo at the Young Vic: Reviewed

How do you convey the epic proportions of the universe within a relatively small theatre at the Young Vic?

Simple. You commission one hell of a score from one half of The Chemical brothers, add an out-of-this-world series of projections, provided by 59 Productions, and top with an astonishingly talented cast.

Leop Puplett
Credit: Leon Puplett

A man light-years ahead of his time, Galileo attempts to convince the powers that be of the theory of Nicolaus Copernicus (that the Sun is in fact at the centre of the universe, rather than the Earth) with the use of a rehashed Dutch designed contraption called a telescope he has in his hands the tools to prove his theory, all he has to do is to convince them to open their eyes and look.

Galileo Galilee played by the explosive Brendan Cowell, reminded me a touch of Nick Helm from BBC’s Uncle. They both share that sarcastic yet lovable, would-be rock god demeanour, however there is much more urgency and intellect in the former. He has an almost aggressive energy to him which he uses to rocket fire you through the play so that this three hour show never seems to drag.

Tristram Kenton
Credit: Tristram Kenton

Surrounding Cowell is an equally punchy cast, most notable of which is Billy Howle who plays Galileo’s apprentice Andrea. It’s an intriguing performance that he gives and I really enjoyed watching the effect his mentor has on him. First, he looks on in awe of Galileo, enraptured by all he says and later becomes crushed with his failure to stand by or die for his theory believing as Galileo taught him “He who does not know the truth is simply a fool, yet he who knows the truth and calls it a lie, is a criminal”.

Wright has well and truly dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s on Verfremdungseffekt tick list. There’s bright lights, scene introductions, placards, musical numbers and puppetry this really does contain the full works.

I can hardly ignore the planetarium in the room in this post, it’s vast and it’s done so well. As you look up to the ceiling you seem to float into space, combined with the trance space age soundtrack; this really is mixed media done right.  

As with most of Brecht’s work, the base of this play is to shine a bright light on the issue of social responsibility, with particular reference here to scientists responsibility to question the dogmatic way of the church.

Much more than that however and perhaps more relevant for 2017, it highlights the need for us to think for ourselves. To not blindly go about accepting everything we are told and to broaden our minds for as Galileo says “What is written in the old books is no longer good enough”.

Seating wise, try and book a floor ticket, as you’ll be in the thick of the action and able to recline on pillows to gaze up into the unfolding galaxy, but if not as is the norm with the Young Vic, there’s not a bad seat in the house.

Johan Persson
Credit: Johan Persson

It’s on until 1st July 2017 but my guess is that it will sell out fast so book your tickets now! 

It’s big, its bold and it’s bloody brilliant. *****

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