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Brighton Fringe 2014

Albert EInstein: Relativitively Speaking (Junior Edition)

Tangram Theatre Company

Genre: Children's Theatre

Venue: The Old Courtroom


Low Down

John Hinton brings the junion edition of his science-comedy ride through dual particle wave theory and some of the darker moments in the life of Albert Einstein


So, a junior edition of a senior edition! John Hinton plays the Jewish refugee, offered a seat at Princeton University, on the run from the Nazis. From the first moment that Albert greets us as weenter, we know we aren’t in for a borning lecture.

As we are addressed from beind the lectrern, Hinton’s Einstein is a talcum-powder effusing comedy character, with enough of our mass-media memory of the visual image of this icon-de-science to keep us happy. Now, my ten year-old had no idea who Einstein was (until I quickly explained in the cafe before the show), but Hinton made the character so accessible from the start, there was an almost instant familiarity.

A great scientist. Well we knew that. But a man in fear of the secrets he’d unleashed onto the world,a world ripe for war and mass destruction. Hinton’s Einstein wants to buy the notion of deterrence, is a man of peace and, ultimately a man devasted by personal loss and fear of having opened Pandora’s Box.

Hinton’s genius as a writer and a performer is that he gives this caricature texture – tenderness alongside mad-scientist nutso-ness. We are addressed directly, in lecture form for much of the time, and this creates the platform for explaining the essence of his scientific theories to an audience ranging from toddler to teen (with plenty of adults muscling in as well).

This is all done at fast pace, with audience involvement, word-play, edutainment, and some breathtaking songs.Hinton crams more lyrics into one second than anyone else I know and can rap the theory of relativity like no one else. If anything, he loads his songs with such tongue-twisting challenge, i think some of it went over the heads of many youngsters in the audience. Occssionally slowing down and playing with pace might benefit the show.

Hinton plays Einstein as an endearing character, one not at ease with his relationship as a scientist with the establishment. He wants peacefulness for his ideas, and yet this is in a world darkened by dynasty. What makes this show remarkable is that these great questions – of science and war, are all brought with ease into an hour in the company of children. I think the show is more suitable for the older children – there were some very one youngs in this audience – but everyone seemed to enjoy it anyway because it is a spectactle of character comedy, wordplay and music.

Hinton attempts to explain wave particle duality to kids using theatre and comedy, a few props and some physical knockabout, and he succeeds. Our ten year-olf got it. But he didn’t get all of it, and there’s still a bit of scope for further clarifying in the show. I’d packed just a bit less in in places and that will be a challenge because there’s a frenzied beauty about the show that is one if its fine qualities. Other fine qualities include the balance of theatre, comedy and music, the easy improvisation laced with tightly scripted one-liners and set pieces.

We thoroughly enjoyed the show and heartily recommend it to families looking for an intelligent hour, plenty of laughs and plenty of learning, relatively speaking.