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Engaging historical fiction that get a little lost in time, Mark St. Germain’s Relativity is an interesting exercise in imagining what historical figures get up to behind closed doors.
A boppy, Nindendo-y tune – the kind of music a Ted Talk will say helps you think – sets our scene; we’re in the year 1942 when we meet celebrated physicist Albert Einstein (Nicholas Papademetriou) and Margaret (Nisrine Amine), a journalist determined to get an interview with the famous scientist and get to the root of Einstein’s family secrets; in particular, why he neglected his former wives and children, and a rumour that he had a secret daughter. Under the watchful eye of his overbearing housekeeper (Alison Chambers), Einstein and Margaret verbally spar on the question of what matters more – your achievements, or your relationships with others.
It’s an intriguing concept, placing a scientist at the centre of a story so enraptured with philosophical discussion. Papademetriou gives us an Einstein riding high on global acclaim and an unmoveable passion for science, willing to leave behind anyone and anything that gets in the way. The stage is set to reflect his point of view. There are no family photos on display, but rather pictures of fellow mathematicians and scientists, and calculations are scrawled on the walls. Amine as Margaret is righteous and stubborn, her handbag a sword in her hands as she draws out piece after piece of research designed to corner her subject into telling the truth. The two clash convincingly in their refusal to back down.
There were some great moments in this story, however, most were buried beneath lengthy arguments that came to no real conclusion before progressing to the next. Margaret’s revelations of Einstein’s dirty secrets never seem to end, becoming less climactic over the 90 minutes. A tightening of some of the lengthier dialogue passages would give the story the pace it needs to sing. Chambers’ portrayal of Einstein’s capricious housekeeper gives a much-needed human side to our perception of the physicist, and levity amid the moral quandaries with which we’re being presented.
So, to be a great person, does one need to first be a good person? Or do they just need to be really, really good physicist? Or is it all relative?
Tawny/Port | Wine Pairing
Whenever I think of philosophers I imagine them sitting around a hearty fire swilling a port, or in Australia, a Tawny, in a short, round glass. So it only seems fitting to pair it with a play that asks the big questions.
My Pick: Yalumba Antique Tawny, South Australia
Syrupy on the palate and dry on the finish, this Tawny offers dried fruit flavours like figs and dates, and a chocolatey nuttiness that balances the high alcohol content.
Relativity, Joining the Dots Theatre | Tasting Notes
|Aussie Season||10 to 13 May 2023, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta Sydney. Produced by Joining the Dots Theatre|
|Writer||Mark St Germain|
|Theatre Type & Genre||Play, historical fiction|
|See it if you like||Imagining the lives of historical icons|
|Criteria for Wine Pairing||a stiff drink, best served in tipples|