Playwrights do seem to love Albert Eistein. I can see why, but I can't see why this play, an early work by This House (National Theatre) writer James Graham, has been resurrected by Fight & Hope Theatre for this year's Fringe. It tells us nothing new, is verbose, expostitional and, above all, dry.
This is one play that Fight & Hope should have either left in the archives or taken not pruning scissors to, but bloody big pruning shears.
It's 1953 and an ageing Einstein is in the US, holed up in his house ostensibly fretting about his work. He's also grieving for his sister, worrying about his estranged son Hans, and looking for his missing cat Amadeus. In walks Peter, the son of family friends, a preppy Jewish boy who's just come home after being interned in a Chinese POW camp. Peter pops 'vitamin pills' like there's no tomorrow while trying to coax Einstein out from his self-imposed exile.
Through their dialogue we discover just how haunted and guilt-ridden Einstein is about his involvement in the Manhattan Project. Because of Peter's recent experiences, which are teased out of him over the course of the play, he insists that his friend has no need to feel guilty. "Hiroshima was the lesser of two evils. A million lives were saved by ending the war early," he says, adding, with seemingly no irony, "It's all relative."
Still Einstein berates himself. Did he do the right thing? Should he have not signed that letter to Roosevelt recommending that the bombs be made? And why can't he feel anything: "300,000 people died. All of those people - why can't I weep for them? Instead I weep for that fat stupid cat."
Ultimately an exploration of how pacifism, idealism, realism and pragmatism all not only end in -ism, but also rub up against each other nastily, Graham's play, written to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and the 50th anniversary of Einstein's death, is an early work that just goes to show how the playwright has come on in leaps and bounds. Far too long at 90 minutes plus, I drifted off at times despite having an interest in the subject.
The actors were adequate, the props minimal, the ending overblown and faintly ridiculous. This is one play that Fight & Hope should have either left in the archives or taken not pruning scissors to, but bloody big pruning shears.