Atlas

Natural philosophers Edmund Halley and Robert Hooke are engaged in a scientific wager that will crown the man who can prove why the planets move elliptically the victor. Halley, enlisting the help of academic outcast Isaac Newton, unwittingly begins a grudge-fuelled chain of events that sees the course of history – and of friendships – change forever. But Atlas, penned by twins Jared and Noah Liebmiller,is not a play about gravity; rather it is concerned with questions of scale, both historically and, more importantly, personally. Royal Society politics, curious though they may be, merely provide the lens through which Atlas is able to think about people at emotional and intellectual extremes.

Atlas is an engaging piece of theatre, deliberate and considered.

One of the most striking aspects of the script is its intense precision and control. The language and tone of the piece is, like its subject matter, disciplined and clinical. Structured around a series of retrospective monologues delivered by Halley and passages of real-time dialogue, the text at its best feels like it could have been written by Tom Stoppard. This is especially noticeable in Halley’s dense monologues, performed admirably by Benji Osugo: Osugo is sure-footed in the role and manages to navigate his complex speeches with a cool, distilled ease. However, sometimes the text is a little too knowing – the danger of attempting such high rhetoric, particularly in a period setting, is that when it fails the calculated aesthetic is left inflated with pomp and its own self-assuredness. Another textual problem is that by the concluding movement arguments between the four characters tend towards the cyclical and repetitive, but whenever this threatens to bore the audience crisis is fortunately averted by some plot device.

Atlas is equipped with a talented cast and crew. The aforementioned Osugo is captivating, performing energetically with overtones of the university lecturer about him. Eleanor Burke’s Robert Hooke is suitably vicious as the villain while showcasing glimpses of vulnerability and humanity, Daniel Jonusas provides a welcome light touch with his Christopher Wren and Lydia Seed pitches Isaac Newton successfully between innocence and arrogance. Credit must go to Alexander Gillespie as the production’s director – the project has been crafted so as never to falter in pacing, and Gillespie has made numerous creative decisions (the use of chalk, for instance) which work very well indeed in the intimate performance space.

Atlas is an engaging piece of theatre, deliberate and considered.  

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Performances

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The Blurb

It's 1684 and the world has entered a new era of scientific enlightenment. A friendly wager between three titans of natural philosophy – Edmund Halley, Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke – turns ugly. Enter little known and less beloved Isaac Newton, whose deep-seated grudges propel him to alter the wager's outcome and the course of history. Atlas fuses historical fiction and character drama, and explores how rivalry and ambition changed the world. ‘Visually charming, emotionally powerful and beautifully written’ (OwlEyesMagazine.com).

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