Writer: Nic Young
Director: Nic Young
Reviewer: Jon Wainwright
We’re taken straight into the trial of Galileo and the peculiar workings of the Inquisition. He complains of being addressed in the third person, as though he isn’t there, and we appreciate the irony of the judge’s objectivity and inquisitiveness (he’s anything but). Galileo’s guilt is assumed – the man just needs to confess. Tim Hardy is compelling as the great scientist, sometimes sat behind a desk, sometimes standing before us, confiding his deepest fears and hopes, confident in his own achievements and yet surprised at the machinations of the church to which he belongs.
We’re left in no doubt as to the consequences of holding the wrong beliefs or publishing the wrong kind of book. Galileo’s early training as a doctor has given him an exquisite understanding of the effects of metal on flesh. We know the damage accidents can do – imagine if someone is really trying. No wonder just seeing the rack is an effective “verbal laxative”. Galileo shares our incredulity that the church should go to so much trouble to destroy a book. Hardy’s expressiveness conveys the absurdity of the charges: what can be so terrible about a book?
After all, an article of faith can hardly be contradicted by a few printed words, or by that which sustains science, reason and evidence. That’s the whole point of faith. Why is the church worried? Because Galileo’s book is a dialogue between two ideas, and however hypothetical the faithful cannot be offered an alternative. Plus there’s the small matter of calling the character who speaks for the pope and the faithful Simplicio.
Hardy wears his Renaissance tunic and gown with the ease of a native of Florence, and has complete mastery of an excellent script. There’s a telescope in one corner, and papers scattered about, including a sketch of the moon showing its mountains and valleys – the very image of heresy. The Inquisition’s rack has long gone, but we’re still looking through that telescope, discovering new knowledge. There is no comfort in ignorance.
Running until 30th August