A Brief History of Time is a show with a daunting task. It aims to present a heavily abridged history of physics in just an hour. The snippet I saw at Fringe for All gave me high hopes for the show and I’m glad to say that I wasn’t disappointed.
I had the opportunity to email back and forth with the show’s creator and Artistic Director of Théatre du Renard, Antonia Leney-Granger. She said the show was inspired by Stephen Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time and that all the scientific theories in the show are accurately presented.
She added that the portrayal of the historical context of the discovery of those theories should be taken with a grain of salt as they were tweaked to make the show more funny and relatable. Though the show is very educational, Leney-Granger admits that her background isn’t in science or teaching.
“I’ve always had a very curious mind and bucketloads of hobbies and interests: I’m interested in learning the basics of pretty much everything, from pottery making to quantum physics! A Brief History of Time started me off on a path that became the mission of my company, Théâtre du Renard: disseminating complex or seemingly inaccessible ideas to a variety of audiences through the playfulness and poetry of object theatre.”
For those unfamiliar with object theatre – sometimes referred to as object puppetry – it’s a kind of theatre where objects are used to create a story with characters. In the case of A Brief History of Time, Leney-Granger uses everything from troll dolls to paper lanterns to magic eight balls to teach the audience about Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and Hubble. The ensuing show is informative, funny, and enlightening.
I asked Leney-Granger what her target audience is and she said it was created with adults in mind, but she has also performed the show for high school groups and even kids age ten and up. She has had physicists and scientists come to the first shows and aside from a few vocabulary changes, they were very happy with it.
It should be noted that there is some content in the show that wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate for younger audiences. There are mentions of alcohol and orgies that may make parents think twice about letting their kids see it. If Leney-Granger has a tweaked version that leaves these things out, the show will be a definite hit among groups looking for educational entertainment that’s fun, engaging, and available in both official languages.
You won’t just see a woman playing with toys on stage, you’ll receive an education on the theories about our universe, the philosophers and scientists that developed them, and the hidden figures that contributed to their development but were never credited. In addition, the setup of the show is fairly light technically, so it can be done in a variety of settings.
What makes A Brief History of Time particularly special is its timing and use of sound. There is no wasted time in the piece and the audio jokes and pop culture references are everything you’d hope they would be.
Though Montreal Fringe is over, Théatre du Renard is planning to take A Brief History of Time on tour in Quebec and internationally, so you may have a chance to check it out.
Whether science, history, or physics are your thing or not, go see A Brief History of Time. You might learn something.