How do you get a young generation to sit still during a three hour Brecht play about a 17th century polymath? Answer: you cast a burly, bearded Australian in the role of Galileo and turn the theatre’s ceiling into the universe.
In Joe Wright’s energetic production, most of the action takes place on a doughnut-shaped promenade. Outside the ring the audience is seated. Inside they can loll about on cushions, all the better to stare skywards at projected images of stars swirling like dust motes in sunlight.
Brendan Cowell’s bearded Galileo is a T-shirt and jeans kind of guy and yet also the astronomer forced by the Vatican to repudiate his own heretical observation that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way round. Cowell puts the case for rational thought with power and passion. The special effects up above are an eyeful, the arguments below are an earful, and Wright’s production is a feast for both senses.