BWW Review: On to the New World, LIFE OF GALILEO at Myeongdong Theatre
What is the truth, and how do we know that it is the truth? Galileo Galilei answers that what you can see is the truth, and people will believe what they see as the truth. However, he finds out that the era that he lives in is not yet ready to accept the unconventional truth. LIFE OF GALILEO comes to Korea again as one of National Theater Company of Korea's 2019 repertoire.
LIFE OF GALILEO, by Bertolt Brecht, shows Galileo Galilei and his life after his first encounter with the telescope. Like most plays written by Brecht, it has scenes when the actors break the fourth wall between the audience and the stage and have the actors directly speak to the audience. As the play starts, the audience first faces the 'buskers' who introduce themselves as people who are going to guide us through the story of Galileo. Galileo - the famous professor and scientist - meets the man who introduces him to the telescope, and Galileo decides to replicate the telescope and introduce it as his own invention. With the telescope, Galileo observes the truths about our space that directly support Nicolaus Copernicus' heliocentric space model. Even though his observations do not support the prevalent geocentric model claimed by the Catholic society, Galileo's work does not stop. He continuously seeks for the truth and ends up in trial by the Roman Inquisition.
Directed by Lee Sungyol, the artistic director of National Theater Company of Korea, LIFE OF GALILEO uses music as an important part of the show. This production uses more music than the original - many transitions between scenes had the actors singing. Personally, it felt like this kind of transition helped me concentrate better since it gave me a break from the tremendous amount of lines that came in the scene before. The set is also worth mentioning. The scenes when Galileo observe the sky was shown more realistically by using projections of the moon, Jupiter's four moons, and other celestial bodies throughout the play. Changes in the time and place were also shown by projecting the captions on stage. The stage itself was also interesting - there was a huge line like sculpture in the middle of the stage that looked like the axis of Earth. With the huge axis in the center, a small rectangular board circled as scenes changes, which looked like a small sailboat that represents Galileo sailing through the sea of knowledge.
How the show portrayed Galileo and the people near him was very interesting for me. Galileo's students are people who are not of the higher class. They are normal people - Andrea, the son of Galileo's housekeeper, Federzoni, the person who grinds the lenses for Galileo's first telescope and the character who gets ignored for not being able to read Latin, and the little monk, who is from a poor family. The students of Galileo, who may be ignored in the society and who may be from a lower social class are the ones who have curiosity for the truth. They are the ones who continuously question themselves about the truth the Catholic society has taught them and never loses the desire for revealing the real truth. And especially it being Andrea who passes on the 'proving stone' to the small boy at the border, it felt like the show was trying to prove that everyone, regardless of who they are viewed in life, can have the thirst for the truth.
Also, the show seemed to give a very hopeful ending, showing that there will be a new world that comes after all the resistance and pain. After recanting his teachings when he is being interrogated, Galileo lives under house arrest. However, when Andrea comes to visit Galileo for the last time before leaving Italy, Galileo asks Andrea to smuggle out a book that he wrote during house arrest. Even though Galileo tells Andrea that his actions are not for the bigger picture and that he is not a heroic character, the fact that Galileo tried until the last moments of his life to know more about the scientific truth that can be proven seems like an action that sheds light on how the human nature for finding the truth will never end, and shows that we will be able to find the truth. Andrea successfully being able to cross the border and going to Holland with Galileo's new research safely also gives hope about how the truth will win.
LIFE OF GALILEO at Myeongdong Theatre
Closed on April 28th, 2019
Photo Credit: National Theater Company of Korea