Theatre Review: The Life Of Galileo, Auckland Waterfront Theatre, 24 June 2021

The heart of Wynyard Quarter beat to the butting heads of truth and power last night with the Auckland Theatre Company occupying the ASB Waterfront Theatre in which the premiere of Bertolt Brecht’s, The Life Of Galileo was set.

The luminary Colin McColl directs the epic drama to which he reiterates in the program notes, is the ‘Brecht play for people who don’t like Brecht’.

The production involves 18 cast, 7 creative crew, 17 production personnel and many more who have contributed to the stunning interpretation of the play.

The Life Of Galileo
Photo by Andi Crown

The familiar face of long-standing actor Michael Hurst fronts as the protagonist, Galileo himself and man, does he look the part!  You may recognise the actor from when he stared as Lolaus in the 90’s TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

The Life Of Galileo
Photo by Andi Crown

The minimalist set designed by Sean Coyle is highlighted under stark lighting – it proves extremely effective during the play. Three rustic styled shipping containers varying in size are wheeled around during the scene transitions and incidental music composed by John Gibson is played through the speakers – an elegantly bowed Cello played by Ashley Brown gives the audience a moment to reset.

The beam above the stage is furnished with the words, “Truth is Concreate” and the seed of struggle is planted from the get-go… and Galileo’s battle begins…

The conjuring of the 20th century classic shifts us into a reflective state and for the next two and a half hours we are witnessing the war on Reason!

The Copernicus theory that the Earth and all other planets revolve around the Sun is brought back to life and a fragmented history lesson has the bums on seats leaning in!

The acoustic projection in the theatre was crystal clear making it a pleasurable listening experience hence the play being dialogue heavy

The cast are bold and assertive, and an idiomatic air is the style permeating through the main characters.

The Life Of Galileo
Photo by Andi Crown

Ravikanth Gurunathan, a relatively new Auckland actor, plays the character Andrea Sarti, a student under Galileo’s wing whose character develops with the story as it unfolds. He has his lines down and he plays the character exceptionally!

Amelia Rose Reynolds plays Virginia Galilei, the daughter of Galileo. Virginia, a Catholic nun who portrays the antagonist viewpoint in which science must give way to faith. Reynolds’ big voice and overt expressions are fresh and vibrant – she was perfect for the part!

Hera Dunleavy plays the partial characters Mrs Sarti and Grand Inquisitor. I didn’t recognise her until I checked my program notes!

The costumes worn by the main characters were striking thanks to Elizabeth Whiting. Rima Te Wiata who played Cardinal Barberini, Mathematician and Pope was decorated in gleaming contrasts as she stepped into each character. The actress wore a fruity attire during a scene as cardinal Barberini and later as pope, a radiant golden chasuble and papal tiara – Wow!

The Life Of Galileo
Photo by Andi Crown

Rima Te Wiata captivated the audience with her bold appearance and strong character portrayals. Each character she played took the spotlight, her vivacious yet authoritarian persona was one to be reckoned with.

This is undeniably epic theatre with its oozing of didactic metaphors and ironic humour threading throughout the story.

A wonderful and thought-provoking show. The theme of truth and power is one of perpetuating spirits, because even now, over 400 years after Galileo struggled to enlighten those around him – we are having these very same issues with our own back yards!

THE LIFE OF GALILEO by Bertolt Brecht

Presented by Auckland Theatre Company
22 June – 10 July
ASB Waterfront Theatre, 138 Halsey St, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland
Tickets and info

~Odessa Neilands

The Life Of Galileo
Photo by Andi Crown