For many people today, their impression of Albert Einstein is quite possibly informed by the oft-seen image of his face: tongue sticking out – to all intents and purposes every bit the mad scientist. John Hinton’s presentation of the man who brought us the theories of relativity and wave-particle duality similarly caricatures the genius, whilst infusing his personality with elements of regret and internal turmoil which goes beyond the common public perception.
You will find yourself forgiving Einstein for his propensity for giving extended speeches and making purposefully excruciating jokes. He is a scientist after all.
Hinton certainly possesses that rare ability to engage with an audience from the earliest moment; he is already chatting to the first people in the venue by the time I find my seat. This comfortable rapport continues throughout the piece as he appeals simultaneously to young and old with some cleverly-pitched humour. His management of the audience is made obvious in each episode of audience participation as each chosen person takes part with willingness and even enthusiasm.
This piece is a play about Einstein’s life and his major theories and uses song, audience participation and comedy as the vehicles upon which to carry the material. There are, understandably, some very complex theoretical ideas which we are introduced to, but Hinton has crafted his characterisation in such a way that we are methodically led to a fairly clear, though necessarily simplified, understanding of Einstein’s core principles. For sure, you will leave feeling significantly more intelligent than at the beginning.
The musical numbers scattered throughout the piece stand out as particular highlights, and each have a charm of their own. The initial song, which outlines Einstein’s motivations for moving to the USA from Germany, is an ingenious mash-up of well-known songs referencing America, while he later outlines a pertinent point about turning students onto the potential excitement of mathematics and physics. By far the crowd’s favourite though must be the E=MC squared rap. You will marvel at the number of words Hinton manages to cram into each musical bar.
Pleasingly, there are more serious shades to the piece as well. We get an insight to Einstein’s misgivings on the use of his science in constructing grievous weapons which go on to cause untold devastation and are provoked, rather ominously, to speculate on how the next worldwide war might be fought. In addition, Jo Eagle provides excellent musical accompaniment to the musical numbers and provides an accomplished foil to Hinton’s humour by appearing at various times as his mother and the two wives of his life.
Young and old will enjoy this hour of entertainment and education. You will even find yourself forgiving Einstein for his propensity for giving extended speeches and making purposefully excruciating jokes. He is a scientist after all.