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Brighton Fringe 2010

The Trials of Galileo

A Hint of Lime Productions

Venue: Iambic Arts Theatre


Low Down

The life of Galileo Galilei is an often-plundered tale, and for good reason: not only did his discoveries take us a huge step further into understanding the cosmos, but his struggle for reason against the church is an ideal metaphor for any struggle against oppression, especially of a religious nature. In this retelling, written by Nic Young and performed by Tim Hardy, Galileo’s struggle is shown from all possible angles and analysed legally, scientifically and politically, as well as personally. The bombastic and powerful performance, along with the pacey script, make for a great evening’s entertainment, although some variance in the telling of this story would have raised it from interesting to truly stunning.


The story of Galileo Galilei is an unhappy man: one of the most brilliant minds in our history, ostracised and considered heretical by the church for his discoveries. It was Galileo who proved that the Earth revolves around the sun (an idea already postulated by Copernicus and Giordano Bruno), using his invention, a powerful telescope. He also contributed significantly to theoretical physics and mathematics, although it isn’t quite as cool as his astonomy: nonetheless, his clashes with the church happened throughout his life, and ended with him under house arrest, on order from the Vatican.

This particular production focuses on Galileo’s trial: the moment when the Catholic church condemned a book he had written, a philosophical discussion of the Copernican universe (Earth revolving around sun), and the mis-trial that led to his house arrest. The trial is examined in meticulous detail: and although we jump around in time a little, the focus is on the discussions before, during and after the trial: the dichotomy between two views of the universe, mostly. This cerebral discussion is made human and entertaining by giving Galileo a passionate case to argue, and it is a credit to Tim Hardy that he could take something so discursive and turn it into engaging drama. The occasional scene involved him jumping between characters, but the play was most alive when he was just Galileo, just the poor man in his house, replaying his actions in his mind. A tour-de-force from this fine actor!

The issues here were more with the script, and it is a shame to needle it so: it is very well-written, very enjoyable and powerful. However, it is still a bit too wordy, too convoluted; it isn’t hard to untangle, it just seems to focus on the less human elements of Galileo’s struggle, meaning that some lines felt unnatural from the very truthful and realised Hardy. Also, there was enough variance in the telling: in the end, this was an hour and a half of one man on stage, telling us about various events: if it had been just an hour, this would have been fine, but as it was, it needed another element or two: projections of Galileo’s drawings, or voice-overs from tormentors; something to draw it away from the direct focus on one man. The occasional voice-over used at the beginning was heading in the right direction, but it needed more, and as such stood out in the wrong way instead: too little, and a little out of place.

I hate to niggle so, but a slight variance and line tweak was all this show needed to be one of the best things this Fringe Festival has to offer. As it stands, it is a fantastic show, well worth seeing and a delight for anyone interested in theatre: if I could give 4 and a half stars I would!