Adelaide Fringe 2014
A man and his vacuum cleaner, a woman and her many faces, a world set on the brink of war, and the single, unified field (theory) that brought them all together… Albert Einstein: Relativitively Speaking takes a playful look at our revered genius with songs, sight-gags, and science.
John Hinton is slight of build with narrow, mild features that make it almost inevitable that he should have ended up playing the role of the beloved, beleaguered, (nearly) Bavarian genius. From the moment we first meet him in the lobby of the Holden Street Theatre, Hinton is in character – absolutely committed in body and voice to the loveable, somewhat scattered personality. We are invited back to the ‘lecture hall’ by our host and emcee for a talk on the Special and the General Theory of Relativity. What follows is a delightful hour of science and song in which, despite the fact that Hinton manages to explain the basics of Unified Field Theory, the difference between the special and the general theory of relativity, and the processes at work in a nuclear explosion (among other things), the only time we feel like idiots is when we can’t manage to sign along during the E=mc2 rap…guess we just weren’t street enough.
There were a few moments when the accent was just thick enough (and Hinton’s speech just rapid enough) for us to miss a little text here and there, but overall Hinton offers succinct, accessible explanations for subjects of baffling complexity. With Jo Eagle deftly playing the women in his life (and the piano), Hinton twirls through Einstein’s life offering us glimpses behind the genius that are surprising, hilarious and, at times, even heart-rending.
The show employs (for the most part) well thought-out, unintimidating audience participation, though one fellow audience member experiences a moment of evident panic when he’s asked to play a speaking part. Generally speaking, the roles we’re given are easy and undemanding, and we come through it all smiling. Of course, it can be difficult to move around on stage following instructions and still continue to listen to (and comprehend) lengthy explanations of complex scientific problems. Nevertheless, we enjoy the interaction and it helps us to feel like we’re part of the show.
This is a well-crafted bit of theatre; musical comedy, but not a ‘musical’. Hinton and Eagle are both skilled, and the show is a tight piece of work, nicely developed and delivered. The songs are cleverly written and Eagle’s piano provides excellent accompaniment to Hinton’s absent-minded performances. A true success of fringe theatre, you won’t leave Albert Einstein: Relativitively Speaking without a smile on your face.