Wednesday, 13 February 2013
More Culture for a Country Bumpkin
This winter my cup of happiness overflowed with three excursions to the Royal Shakespeare Company in a row, apart from several productions transmitted, via satellite, straight from the stage of the National Theatre in London to a local cinema screen.
The RSC decided to assemble an ethnically diverse company to present three world classics in a season they named ‘A World Elsewhere’, to look beyond Shakespeare and discover what else was happening around the globe during his lifetime. We have had ‘The Orphan Of Zhao’, the first Chinese play ever to have been translated in the West. It describes events in the ancient past. The story has existed for about 2.500 years in some form or other, the current play is based on a version first published in 1616, during Shakespeare’s lifetime.
Although watching a performance on a cinema screen is better than missing out, there’s nothing like the real thing. In the intimate auditorium of The Swan you can almost touch the performers and their swishing costumes as they enter and leave.
We also had Boris Godunov, Pushkin’s play about murder, mayhem and treachery in high places in Russia in the 17th century, gore and dastardly deeds galore; in the end good triumphed
over evil, which is only right and proper.
The third play, which I only saw last Saturday, was Brecht’s masterpiece 'A Life of Galileo'. Try as I might, I can say nothing flippant about it. Brecht provides us with a 20th century perspective on the conflict between religious dogmatism and scientific evidence in 17th century Italy. I was totally engrossed. I wanted to commit to memory each line of Brecht’s text as it was spoken only to find that the next line, and each line after that, was as gripping as the first. In the end I was forced to buy the complete script.
The story is roughly, that in the year 1609 the light of science shone in a modest house in Padua as Galileo set out to prove that the sun is fixed and the earth is on the move.
Having proved it beyond all doubt, in June 1633 Galileo was forced to bow to the might of the Inquisition and formally abandoned his opinions of the Copernican theory. An apocryphal story contends that the moment Galileo rose from his abjuration he muttered the phrase “and yet it moves”. Galileo spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
In 2000, Pope John Paul II issued a formal apology for all the mistakes committed by some Catholics in the last 2,000 years of the Catholic Church's history, including the trial of Galileo among others.