"The Life of Galileo" in Armagh Observatory

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Link: "The Life of Galileo" programme - PDF format

Link: Greenwood Players "Life of Galileo" schools workshops information and booking form - PDF format

The Greenwood Players and the Armagh Observatory proudly present, in the Armagh Observatory, the first performance on the island of Ireland of the play "The Life of Galileo" by Bertolt Brecht in a new version by David Hare. "The Life of Galileo" and its central drama of the conflict between science, religion and authority is a story that resonates today. First performed by the National Theatre, the production directed by Stephen Beggs takes place in the Armagh Observatory from Friday 22nd February to Sunday 24th February. Archbishop Richard Robinson founded the Observatory in 1789, and it is now the oldest scientific institution in Northern Ireland and the longest continuously functioning astronomical observatory in the UK and Ireland. The City of Armagh, with its wealth of religious and scientific heritage, is the ideal location for this premiere of David Hare’s intimate and accessible version of Brecht’s play.

The Greenwood Players is a new and exciting semi-professional theatre company that specializes in site-specific theatre. Producer Enid Crowe said, "This will be an incredibly intense, atmospheric experience for the necessarily small audience, building on our most recent production, the acclaimed 'Under the Greenwood Tree', which was inspired by and performed in August 2011 and June 2012 under the ancient oaks of Belvoir Forest, Belfast".

Director of the Observatory, Mark Bailey, added, "The story of Galileo’s interaction with the Church and his clash with the prevailing worldview that the Earth was the centre of the Solar System and not the Sun, neatly illustrates the scientific method and how difficult it can sometimes be to prove facts, in this case that the Earth moves at an incredible 67,000 miles per hour in its orbit around the Sun, which we nowadays take for granted!"

Indeed, as remarked by Ian McDonald, author and Executive Producer with the Greenwood Players, "The Life of Galileo is a story that needs retelling every generation, especially in a 21st century when we seem to be moving away from science to an authority or belief-based worldview."

In Armagh, where science and religion have cohabited for centuries in harmony, the Observatory’s programmes of international quality astronomical research and Science in the Community combine to advance knowledge and understanding of astronomy internationally so as to enrich the economic and social life of Northern Ireland and attract visitors to Armagh. The performance of Brecht’s play in the Observatory helps to achieve these aims whilst contributing also to DCAL and Northern Ireland Executive goals to promote creativity and lifelong learning; to develop and deliver high-quality cultural products; and to widen public interest in and understanding of astronomy and thereby also of the economically important disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

There will be five performances of the play: two matinees at 2.00pm on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th February, and three evening performances at 7.00pm on each of 22nd, 23rd and 24th February. Tickets, which are strictly limited, are available at galileoattheobservatory.eventbrite.co.uk.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Enid Crowe, Greenwood Players, Tel.: 078-8931-0044; E-mail: greenwoodplayers1at signgmail.com or John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; jmfat signarm.ac.uk.

Notes for Editors:

The Greenwood Players (see Greenwood Players Facebook) is a new and exciting group who have been assembled with the express purpose of performing site-inspired theatre and providing exciting new acting talent with an opportunity to work with established theatre professionals.

"The Life of Galileo" is the Greenwood Player’s second production. The first was the acclaimed "Under the Greenwood Tree", inspired by and performed under the ancient oaks in Belvoir Forest in August 2011 and June 2012. This production was part of the RSC/Lyric Open Stages project and was performed in the Naughton Studio in April 2012.

Galileo will also be making a guest appearance with the Observatory as part of the BBC Stargazing Live event at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Oxford Island, on Thursday 10th January.

The Armagh Observatory is a modern astronomical research institute with a rich heritage. Founded in 1789 by Archbishop Richard Robinson, the Observatory is one of the UK and Ireland's leading astronomical research establishments. Around 30 astronomers are actively studying Stellar Astrophysics; the Sun; Solar System astronomy; and the Earth's climate.

The Observatory is funded by major grants from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure for Northern Ireland (DCAL) and the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The aim is to advance the knowledge and understanding of astronomy and related sciences through the execution, promotion and dissemination of astronomical research nationally and internationally in order to enrich the intellectual, economic, social and cultural life of the community.

Stephen Beggs (Director) has been Manager of Bruiser Theatre Company since 2002 and was Chair of the Northern Ireland Theatre Association (NITA) from 2010 to 2012. Theatre direction credits include productions for Festival of Fools; Belfast Community Circus; Skewiff Theatre Company; Ponydance; Belfast Actors’ Studio; Block One Theatre Company; The Tyrone Guthrie Society; and South Bank Playhouse.

Theatre acting credits include roles in "Cooking With Elvis" for Bruiser; "Blackness After Midnight" for the 'Titanic 100 Festival'; "Dinner", "Flesh Dense" and "The Exercism Of Mary Rose" for Red Lemon; "The Gathering" for Theatre Abandon; "Pride & Prejudice/Pick & Mix" for Replay; "What The Butler Saw" & "Nobody Here But Us Chickens" for Rawlife; "Santaland Diaries" for C21; "Chasing The Whale’s Tale" for Sticky Fingers; "Collectors" for Trouble Joe; "The Crucible" and "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui" at The Lyric Theatre; "Elegies For Angels, Punks & Raging Queens" at The Black Box, Belfast; "All My Sons", "Pride and Prejudice", "The Dumb Waiter", "Philadelphia, Here I Come", "Our Town" and "Hay Fever" for South Bank Playhouse.

Radio work includes “Stranded”, "It Ain’t What You Do", "The Keepers" and "Don’t Make Me Laugh", all for BBC Radio Ulster and "Cuan Drama" for Cuan FM.

Ian McDonald (author and Executive Producer with the Greenwood Players) is an internationally renowned writer. He has been published in 16 languages and has been nominated for a host of awards from the UK to France to Japan and more. He is a frequent guest at writing festivals. Ian's latest book is the YA adventure Planesrunner (Jo Fletcher Books, UK, Jan 2013), and as well as new book and story project he is developing a number of concepts and pieces for performance.

Last Revised: 2013 February 22nd