If Atlas fell below the premier of your prized list of commitments on these evenings, you should feel foul in regret as you missed a superb production.
Atlas, written by brothers Jared and Noah Liebmiller, follows the augmenting rivalry of Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton as it sours. Oliver Gilford, playing Edmund Halley, was steady and even throughout and stood as a chorus. A refrained questioning of time and the passing of history continued from the opening to the applause. As Jared wrote in the programme: “Atlas was conceived of as a play about people and the competing egos, hopes, dreams and fears that changed them.” Observational monologues addressed these wider themes perceptively. There were no dawdling phrases nor a word misplaced in the dialogue. Each moment of audience address was direct, relevant and, like the dialogue throughout, naturally flowing. No line read awkwardly and all was an ease on the ear.
Alongside Gilford was Emily Hoyle playing Robert Hooke, Miles Hurley playing Isaac Newton, and Jonathan Hewitt playing Christopher Wren. Each performed impressively in their own role while filling the space with alluring fluidity around one another. Hoyle’s performance was fierce. With such decisive delivery of lines, even her absence from the stage became dynamic, the audience anticipating her return. Hurley developed Newton’s humorous charisma through constant bodily mannerisms, which were at times brilliantly deft; a mere look drew long laughter from the audience. Frequent references to Newton’s wild hair were matched onstage by buoyant exclamations made by Hurley’s own locks. As devastating accusations, jealousy, treachery and personal turmoil composed the dramatic peak, Hurley shed the coat of comic injection. Hewitt was convincing in his interface between Gilford and Hooke, calmly touching the human sense of loss in the fallout from Newton and Hooke’s dispute.
Confounded mixtures of compassion and tangible sentimentality rested with Gilford as he lamented friendship and the grasp over pinnacle moments while Hurley sat darkened in a moment of destruction. The sense of loss and regret introduced to the audience, outlasting the conclusion of this production, is testament to the Liebmiller’s sharp ability to interpret the events. The equilibrium of each individual demonstrated in this collective warrants vast merit and praise for every member of the cast. I eagerly await any further production with their involvement.
Hugh M Casey