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The Transit of Venus

first_imgAstronomical occurrences have always held a particular fascination for humanity. One such example is the Transit of Venus, when the planet can be seen to move across the sun. In celebration of the first transit to occur in 122 years, which coincides with opening night, the play seeks to examine the scientific frenzy caused by the previous transit in 1874 as well as the way in which it captured the popular imagination. The play itself is an interesting piece of abstract theatre. It does not have a distinct plot but is created piecemeal from a variety of first hand accounts about the transit, from newspaper articles and scientific journals and concluding with a poem taken from an 1874 issue of Punch. The play shows us the whole gamut of emotions that accompanied the event, from the initial sense of opportunism and scientific rivalry to feelings of triumphalism, recrimination and acrimony afterwards. The production is especially skilled at the stylistic effects of contrasting these seemingly overwrought accounts with a bare, mechanical rendering of them on stage. In one scene, the actors carry out automaton- like movements accompanied by the steady beat of a metronome effectively bringing out the mechanical exactitude of the scientific endeavour. Another interesting scene has the cast repeating phrases from newspapers such as ‘fatal difficulty’, ‘twelve years of error’ in a canon effect, eventually descending into a monotonous cacophony of voices. As conceptual theatre goes, it is an intriguing and well thought out production.ARCHIVE: 5th week TT 2004last_img read more

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