The Trials of Galileo

Sat at his desk topped by an embroidered cloth, around him the tools of his trade, a telescope atop a tripod, sketches and diagrams of the phases of the Moon and the planets, sits an elderly man looking through his papers; it is always a privilege to be in the presence of the learned, the wise, and when Newton said he had stood on the shoulders of giants this is one of whom he spoke.

The great Italian mathematician and astronomer Galileo Galilei, his work was based on observation and calculation, on what a detached critic would be forced to agree, however grudgingly, was fact, but the Catholic Church does not run on facts so much as faith and doctrine, that the heavens are fixed and unchanging and pure, that God made Earth as the centre of the universe and all else rotated around it.

A misconception written in scripture which Galileo in his hubris challenged in print with the publication of his Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems), under threat of torture he was challenged to recant the inherent heresy, events which forms the core of The Trials of Galileo, a dramatic monologue written and directed by Nic Young and exquisitely performed by Tim Hardy.

A game for lawyers, the truth is not on trial so much as the attempt by one man to challenge what is perceived as a central tenet of Catholicism; is God so weak that the affront of one book could bring down the pillars of the church, Galileo asks – wisely, in the privacy of his chambers rather than in open court – but the verdict is decided before the opening arguments are heard, that the offending object must be plucked from the world, and Galileo must choose whether the object is to be the book or himself.

Hardy conveying at one moment a man tired and beaten by the conniving system he cannot hope to outwit, frustrated but never bitter, he then recalls his work and achievements with childlike enthusiasm, conveying to the audience how he methodically came to his conclusions and even discussed them with the head of the church in the gardens of the Vatican before publication, but time is the true judge, and while few might recall the name of the casual betrayer Pope Urban VIII, Galileo remains rightly recognised and celebrated.

The Trials of Galileo runs at Greenside Infirmary Street until Saturday 26th August