By Casey Bohan
In the middle of the bustling Trades Hall (This years Fringe hub), just past the Bar is a gem of a show you could easily miss, but really shouldn’t! In the archive room, Dr Thomas D. Richards takes his audience on an educational romp through the history of understanding our Universe. This is the story of us and everything that has or will ever matter, in 50 minutes. We learn about Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson and their accidental discovery of the ‘Cosmic Microwave Background’, left over matter from the beginning of the universe and still buzzing around us today.
From the beginning of the show through to the end, there is no separation of performer and audience, the audience is addressed and acknowledged through out the piece. You are made to feel individually important for this precise moment of theatre and storytelling and immediately are engaged with what is about to unfold before you. For a piece dealing with what could be, understandably, complex ideas, Dr. Richards never treats his audience’s intelligence as anything less than equal to his own. He may be the one giving us the information, but PHD or not, the audience is treated as capable of understanding and then some.
The archive room of the Trades Hall is the perfect location for this piece as Dr. Richards addresses, the room was a filter through which all records of history were once stored, and now we sit here to explore the beginning and discovery of it all. A simple set with only the necessary pieces to explore his points is laid out before us, audio recorder, old TV broadcasting static only and a chalkboard. It feels reminiscent of a classroom, which adds all the more charm to this piece. One of the more beautiful moments comes down to lighting and performer working together, as the high energy of the piece is softened in a moment of awe and focus.
Dr Thomas D Richards is a charming and entertaining performer and presenter. His engagement with the audience and sincere excitement was thoroughly enjoyable throughout the piece. One can’t help but join him in the childlike fascination for all things space and our understanding of it. The arch of the story is justified and empathetic, as Dr. Richards explains and then tries to understand himself, the notions of our universe and the contradictions that bring us to where we are today.
Somehow a piece discussing the concept that we all began from nothing and will eventually return to nothing, maintains a lighthearted and upbeat musicality. Even though we are dealing with a heavy and complex topic, its story teller never falls into the serious bombardment of information that could easily occur. The story is informative but thoroughly entertaining to learn from, it and Dr. Richards will have you smiling from beginning to end.
If science class had been anything like this in High School, maybe the universe would be less confusing to us all. It’s childlike wonder in no way detracts from its very adult feeling of being overwhelmed by your own existence. A celebration of the contradictions of life and the universe. This piece is an absolute joy.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.