Life of Galileo at the Rose Theatre is definitely a triumph, veering closer to polemic than political biography.
From the off the play is all whirring movements, circular (or rather elliptical) motions as characters wheel around describing the passage of the stars.
The story of Galileo’s battles with the establishment as he fights, not so much to prove the earth revolves around the sun, but to establish the integrity of science, are told clearly and movingly.
But what stands out most is Galileo’s irreverent character, his portrayal by Ian Macdiarmid, bubbling over with enthusiasm, sarcasm and scorn for those around him, brought low by his predicament, but ready to burst back into life when circumstances change.
The absurdism, with masks, songs and chanting breaking into the action, jars sometimes. But this is Bertold Brecht. What did you expect?
This is the Life of Galileo through the life of Brecht, a Bavarian Marxist, so attacks on the dogma and hypocrisies of Catholicism are also peppered with passages romanticising the plight of the working man in the corn field ruled over by his unfeeling overlords.
Sections given over to the potential horrors and abuse of science were rewritten by Brecht after World War Two. Militarism, with uniforms and checkpoints, rears its ugly head but science, curiosity and the passion of discovery, lives on.
The cast also includes Mathew Aubrey, Paul Hamilton, Chris Kum Hoi, Katherine Manners, Elizabeth Marsh, Patrick Romer, Jo Servi, Sadie Shimmin, Paul Westwood and Cath Whitefield.
Roxana Silbert is Artistic Director of Birmingham Repertory Theatre; her previous work includes A Soldier In Every Son and Richard III.
The production is designed by Tom Scutt, music and sound by Nick Powell, movement by Struan Leslie and lighting by Rick Fisher.
A Life of Galileo; Rose Theatre Kingston; Until Sat 29 Mar; Tickets £20 - £30, pit cushions £5; 08444 821 556; rosetheatrekingston.org