by Bertolt Brecht
English version by Charles Laughton
directed by Jon Lee
with Jeff Merrifield as Galileo

Considered by many to be one of Brecht's masterpieces, Galileo explores the question of a scientist's social and ethical responsibility, as the brilliant Galileo must choose between his life and his life's work when he is confronted with the demands of the Inquisition. Through his characterisation of the famous physicist, Brecht examines the issues of scientific morality and the difficult relationship between the intellectual and authority.

Brecht's Galileo is not a hero - he is a man who loves life so much he is compelled to investigate its wholesome nature. Though he saves his own skin from the rigours of the Inquisition, he also saves his work for posterity, not to be of benefit to him in his own lifetime, but on behalf of future humankind.

In an age where the demands of orthodoxy increasingly permeate most strata of society, where the rebel or maverick is regarded as heretical, those attitudes that restricted Galileo in his work are once more to the fore. In recent times, respected scientists such as Jacques Benveniste, who championed the dilution basis of homeopathic medicine, and Linus Pauling, who quite credibly researched the curative properties of Vitamin C, have both been branded 'heretics' by the mainstream scientific orthodoxy, as represented by Nature magazine and other professional journals.

The version of the play used in this production is the famous one that was brought to completion by Brecht himself, working with Charles Laughton, who played Galileo in the first two American productions, in Hollywood and New York during 1947. Since then, the play has become a classic in the repertoire of world theatre.

This production in directed by Jon Lee, from the Drama Centre and features a cast of largely professional actors working alongside people from the local community. The jovial nature of the man that was Galileo permeates the production, contrasting this joviality with the intense pressure brought to bear in order to crush his freewheeling ideas.


Visit the Galileo Project website for more information on the man.

Visit this Brecht site for more information on the play.

Review Essex Chronicle Go Supplement