Fringe Review: “A Brief History of Time” a clever, quirky odyssey through the evolution of astrophysics


Photo Credit: Caroline Hayeur

“Welcome to the first international Conference on Astro-object-physics!” A Brief History of Time by Théâtre du Renard is a clever, quirky, geeky ride through the history of modern physics, presented by an adorkable Antonia Leney-Granger.

Antonia Leny-Granger is that substitute teacher you always hoped to have. She clearly loves her subject and has a passion for teaching it. Her witty, dorky style and her creative use of tiny objects, such as plastic toys, lights, a pair of plastic clappers (you’ll know what I mean) and a whoopee cushion make this educational gem of a show so entertaining that you don’t even realize that you just had the best lesson in astro-physics without as much as taking your calculator out. She expertly proves that you don’t need big spaces or lecture halls to talk about space and time, and the universe at large.

Photo Credit: Caroline Hayeur

Our odyssey through space and time and history begins in ancient Greece, around 350 BC, where Aristotle, frustrated with the penniless art of philosophy, turns to the natural sciences and sets the grounds for modern physics by proposing that the Earth is, in fact, round. Centuries later, during the renaissance Copernicus tries to add something but due to an unfortunate speech impediment nobody understands what it is. Moving on to Galileo, portrayed by a bewigged, heretical eight-ball, is put on trial on the Vatican’s latest game show “Inquisition”, where the Pope of the time encourages you to “speak your mind – but also make sure it is mine!”

This is the tone Antonia sets for her nearly-perfectly timed three-acter. The show, a solo piece of object theatre which was originally written in French and carefully adapted for an English audience in partnership with the Young Creators Unit at Playwrights Workshop, takes us from these early discoveries to the current state of science through storytelling, song and rap. Antonia captivates the audience’s attention through otherwise perplexing matters such as Newton’s Laws of Motion, Einstein’s relativity or Hubble’s extragalactic astronomy and her humorous use of all sorts of props leaves novices enlightened and experts entertained.

Photo Credit: Amélie Poirier-Aubry

In a slight departure from the source material, the eponymous 1988 book by the late Stephen Hawking, women in science are given their due. The often overlooked contributors and scientists in their own right, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, Emmy Noether, Émilie du Châtelet, Maria Cunitz and Hypathia are named and put in their rightful place beside their respective contemporaries. (Here it is particularly interesting to take note which members of the audience choose to not applaud.)

The show ends on an outlook on the future of our universe. While an eventual end of all seems the most likely scenario, the fact that there are curious beings in it, and artists like Antonia to break it all down for us, is cause to give hope.

Anyone with a curiosity for what makes the world go round.

Drink suggestion:
Something nerdy, bubbly and sweet. Perhaps a Sonic Screwdriver with raspberries. (The cocktail, not the tool from Dr. Who)

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Théâtre du Renard presents “A Brief History of Time”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival

Performances: June 6 – 16, 2019
Venue: 08 – Black Theatre Workshop Studio
3680 Jeanne-Mance, Montréal, H2X 2K5 
Admission: $8 – 12
Box Office:
514.849.FEST (3378)

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