After some immersive research that included interviews with astrophysicists, a close encounter with the Parkes Radio Telescope and trips to Manchester, Oxford, Greenwich and the Vatican Library in Rome, Alana Valentine wrote Ear To The Edge Of Time and won the 2012 STAGE International Script Competition for best play about Science or Technology. It’s a fictitious story with factual ingredients that explores gender politics, ego, art, academia, trust, human nature and the universe – all in 75 minutes.
Martina Addeley (Gabrielle Scawthorn) is an astrophysicist who suspects she may have made a once-in-a-lifetime discovery. She is being harangued by a poet, Daniel Singer (Tim Walter), who has been invited to contribute to an anthology of science-themed poetry commissioned by esteemed Professor Geraldine Kell-Cantrell (Belinda Giblin). Martina is initially hostile towards Daniel but upon finding herself on the cusp of immortality she has a change of heart. While she doesn’t yet show her hand, it’s easy for Daniel to see Martina is holding some pretty impressive cards and he unwittingly leaks this information to her supervisor, Steven Sarvas (Christopher Stollery), who, galvanised by curiosity, steals the pinnacle moment of confirmation and hence, the glory. So ensues a tumult of emotion and ethical politics.
The minimal set consists of rudimentary props and a half-moon screen showing astral images (and a moving road during a car scene). The mostly black set gives a sense of remoteness. The actors are all strong, with Stollery being on target with humour and Giblin bringing her eminence. Scawthorn is intense – perhaps a little too much so. The pragmatic reserve she shows in the first scene is unraveled with a child-like display of glee in the next and overtaken by unrestrained anguish which remains at peak level for the rest of the play. The script would have benefited from a bit more nuance; the message is obvious and it often verges on didactic. However, it’s a well paced play and the science is fascinating.
Until Oct 27. Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre, Cnr Cleveland St and City Rd, Chippendale. $36-$45+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.seymourcentre.com
Reviewed by Rita Bratovich