I checked. It is not a typo. “Relativitively” it is. That little worry put aside, stand back for that bombshell of a man, John Hinton, in the second of his Scientrilogy (also correct) series “Albert Einstein: Relativitively Speaking”. The other two are about Charles Darwin and Marie Curie. As with those, this play is written by John and his wife Jo, directed by Daniel Goldman with technical assistance by Ashley Smyth and Eric Morel.
You may not recognise portraits of the other two scientists but this one you’d know in a flash – even in caricature form with his wild unruly hair and revolting broom-head of a moustache and if he was muttering “E equals M C squared” at the same time, you’d absolutely know you were looking at the late great Albert Einstein. John Hinton believes that teaching should be fun on both sides of the teacher’s desk and there was a good representation of young high school hopefuls who agreed with him as they happily watched this long-legged guru leap about, dance, stride, wrap people up, bubble with excitement and sing at an incredible rate. He involves them, challenges, informs and entertains them. He wanders in amongst them at the back of the audience, although when he did that what he said was lost on those in front who couldn’t hear and, without screwing necks around, couldn’t see either. Still, we got the gist of what was going on. He made us laugh. He made us think.
Albert Einstein is a very good subject to rave about since there’s no shortage of good material about him. Born of clever Jewish parents in Germany in 1879, he was lucky in them. His mother studied theoretical physics and his father’s work led to Albert inventing the refrigerator, for instance. In 1921 Albert won the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics and four years later, at 26, achieved his doctorate as a theoretical physicist, having developed his theory of relativity. Albert has a bit of a laugh about that in the show. He thinks it a hoot that Nobel who made his vast fortune from his many inventions, the most famous being dynamite which killed millions of people, was the donor of 5 Nobel Prizes, the most prestigious of which is the Peace Prize. He did it because he did not want to be remembered as “The Merchant of Death” but as a generous donor to those who worked for the good of humanity. He succeeded.
Jo Eagle (John’s wife) plays his mother, his two wives – and the piano – to accompany his witty songs. Albert’s first is about how his family took the hint early and got out of Germany in 1933 to escape the burgeoning Nazi party and fled to America – just in time, for already Jews were being hassled. They wanted him dead in particular and put a price on his head because of what he knew and what value he could be to Germany’s future enemies. He knew that the Nazis were trying to build a bomb in 1939, a terrible bomb with astonishingly destructive powers using his theory. Albert hates the thought of his theory being used for such a purpose. He, like Nobel, could be remembered badly – for being the brains behind German domination of the world because of the bomb. Now he too is facing a dilemma. He is indeed the man who knows too much. His terrible problem is that he is sure the bomb will be built. As a declared pacifist, should he be involved at all? If he tells the Americans, they would try to build the bomb before the Germans. If not, the Germans could build it and use it. Einstein knows he is very influential when in 1939 he decides he must write to President Roosevelt to say he’d better see that the bomb is built by the U.S.A. The war ensues and Albert continues his work for instance on gravity – Newton v. Einstein – and there is clever use of newspapers with huge headlines from “Germany Invades Poland” in 1939 to the dropping of atomic bombs in 1945 – not on Germany who have surrendered, but on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan who refused to do so. He tosses the debate to the audience about whether it was the right thing to do and that it saved more lives than allowing war to blunder on. 200,000 people died in those two attacks. 200,000 people! He repeats it over and over again like a mantra. It was his equation that was used to split atoms into two creating an uncontrolled nuclear reaction generating heat 10,000 times hotter than the sun. Surely it has to have been the right decision, he pleads.
As always with teaching, it is the enthusiasm of the teacher that wins the day. It is their excitement and passion that stirs minds in and out of the classroom. John Hinton certainly does his bit to instil some of his eagerness for knowledge to young and old.
Tangram Theatre presents
Albert Einstein: Relativitively Speaking
by John Hinton and Jo Eagle
Director Daniel Goldman
Venue: The Arch at Holden Street Theatres | 34 Holden Street, Hindmarsh SA
Dates: 13 Feb – 18 March 2018
Tickets: $22– $28
Bookings: 1300621255 | holdenstreettheatres.com