A mosaic of fact and fiction, Isaac’s Eye provides an insight into the life of scientist, Isaac Newton. Although Newton is best known for his work on the laws of gravity, this play focuses on an earlier period of his life. The performance begins with a young Newton, desperate to be allowed membership to the Royal Society. This prestigious group of scientists would provide him with power, respect and access to funding for future experiments.
As the play goes on, it becomes clear that Isaac’s primary objective is fame; he cannot bear the thought of passing through life without global recognition. To achieve membership to the Royal Society, Newton (Jacob Brown) contacts scientist Robert Hooke (Peter Morrison) who subsequently comes to visit. The two scientists enter into a power struggle as various layers of manipulation and jealousy unfold and such chemistry between the two actors thrives throughout the production.
Particular praise goes to Rob Younger (the narrator) who is present and active within every scene. While his presence, invisible to the characters, is a little distracting at times, his role in the play echoes our own roles as audience members as we look back on Newton’s life. The narrator is particularly important to inform the audience of the truths and lies sewn throughout the performance. Younger’s fast-paced and witty performance is a fantastic addition to this play.
While the actors themselves performed eloquently, the conceptual ideas within this play were a little confusing. To open the play, the narrator explains that the performance is a mixture of facts and exaggerations; to distinguish between the two, the facts were written on the set walls throughout.
However, as the play ensued, less and less was written on the walls. The performance plays on ideas of love, science and desire in a very effective way but, in the final scene, the narrator reveals that very little was actually true. The shocking development of events occurring within the play had less resonance upon this realisation and creates a certain sense of bathos.
To conclude more positively, the theatrical portrayal of one particular scene stood out. In a desperate attempt to regain power over Newton, Hooke turns to Catherine (Philippa Iles), Newton’s closest friend. The scene lighting comes from a variety of sources; a lampshade, a heated coil within a dusty lightbulb, a glowing light buried under crumpled pieces of paper in a bookcase. This effective lighting casts a romantic atmosphere tainted by eerie undertones; a perfect portrayal of the charged relationship between the two.
This is a well-performed play which, despite a slightly flawed foundation, is worth a watch – particularly if you wish to gain insight into the life of Sir Isaac Newton.
Photo courtesy of Edinburgh University Theatre Company