Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Atlas Dramaturgy:Jared and Noah Liebmiller @ Edfringe 2017

 Q: What happened when Robert Hooke, Edmund Halley, Christopher Wren and Isaac Newton got into a grudge match?
A: Find out at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 drama, Atlas

Edinburgh Fringe, best known for its comedy, also offers a historical gem this year, thanks to a talented twin-writing duo.
Atlas, a gripping drama by twins and writing partners, Jared and Noah Liebmiller, makes its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe from 4th-19th (Not 6th or 13th) August at theSpace on North Bridge, Perth Theatre.

Blending historical fiction with character drama, Atlas follows the historic rivalry between science legends Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

For this I will hand it over to one of playwrights, Jared Liebmiller:

Well, Noah and I both read "A Brief History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson, where we first heard about the interesting historical factoid of this titanic scientific dispute. Then we were re-introduced to it while watching an episode of "Cosmos" hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. We turned to each other and said "there must be a movie about this, or a play." We looked it up, there wasn't, and the rest is history.

We also drew inspiration from some of our favorite plays, particularly "Copenhagen" by Michael Frayn and the historical dramas "The Royal Hunt of the Sun" and "Amadeus" by Peter Shaffer. We wanted to create something that was both intellectually challenging and historically grounded, and use that as a jumping-off point for exploring themes of legacy, memory, truth, and, most importantly, friendship. 

We also wanted to speculate about what these people were like in real life, and how such huge minds and personalities might bounce off one another. History is full of these pairings - men and women of legendary genius and passion who really knew each other, who really spoke over coffee of things that would change the world. I think that's the sort of mystery and mood we wanted to put on the stage.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Of course it is! In fact, I think it may very well be the best space for ideas to be discussed. Where in cinema the camera chooses the story for you, and the internet tends to encourage echo chambers - the theatre is capable of taking two contrasting ideas, putting them on stage for an hour or three and having them face off against each other. 

Similarly, theatre isn’t afraid of tackling ideas in non literal ways, pushing your imagination to approach an issue side on. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

I came into performance as an actor when I was young. For me, theatre was always a place for family, where you could come in and for a few weeks, or a few months, you had instant new friends. As I got older my interests started to shift - from wanting to be a part of a performance, to wanting to be in charge of them. In times good times and bad, I will always want to be making performance.

Is there any particular approach to the making
of the show?

We always like to start approaching plays in out, and this especially the case with Atlas. As our characters are real people (Isaac Newton, Edmund Halley, Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke) we’ve started by trying to collate as much information about who these people really were, and to expand out from there.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

I’m primarily interested in shows that use relationships to explore broader issues. With Atlas this means using the dissolution of a friendship to explore broader ideas of great man history and gravity.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I’m hoping that people leaving the show will have experienced a sense of tension that arises when one becomes successful at the cost of a friendship.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

The play regularly intercuts the narrative with monologues from a future version of Edmund Halley. For the sake of our rehearsals we have been working with the idea that these monologues form a kind of “last lecture”, with the natural philosopher passing on what he has learnt over the years. 

This lets us address the narrative in two ways, once looking at it straight on, and then once again with hindsight. As such, we hope that this engages the audience, bringing them into the character’s experience, as he is pulled between succeeding in life and wanting to hold onto his friendships, pulling them multiple ways at once. 

The show brings together lively scientific exploration, interesting glimpses of enigmatic historical figures, and grounded human drama. Three scientists - Robert Hooke, Edmund Halley, and Christopher Wren - meet for coffee in London in 1683. 
Discussing the mysterious behaviour of the planets, Wren poses a wager as to which of them can identify why the planets move the way they do.
Halley takes the question to Isaac Newton, a physicist and mathematician, who solves the problem in a stunningly short time.
But Newton's deep-seated grudges propel him to alter the wager's outcome and therefore the course of history.  His actions force the four men to take sides, isolating one another, and ultimately attempting to ruin each others' careers.
The writers are excited to bring their debut work to the Edinburgh Fringe. “We wanted to show the human drama playing out behind this profound scientific advancement”
“The fact that these four giants of science knew each other is pretty mind-blowing. The play focuses on how their egos, friendships, and competition bred the fiercest rivalry in scientific history”.
 Hailed as "Visually charming, emotionally powerful and beautifully written" ( during its run in St Andrews, Atlas brings an exciting twist to the historical drama. Unfurling an incisive study of the human egos that inhabited the brightest minds.  How a simple friendly wager can quickly turn sour, ultimately setting off a lifelong feud between some of the greatest minds of all time.
 Atlas will be performed at theSpace on North Bridge, Perth Theatre (venue 36), 4th-19th August (not 6th & 13th)  at 18:25  for £7.00 (£6.00 concessions)
Editors Notes
Release issued by Charlotte Haswell-West,
Twitter: @AtlasFringe
Mermaids Performing Arts Fund has been taking shows to the Fringe for decades, consistently doing well with new writing at the Festival. Previous successes including the incredibly popular 'Shakespeare Syndrome', and 'Delay Detach', a piece new writing that was shortlisted for the Scottish Arts Club Best Scottish Play Award.
Atlas, by Jared and Noah Liebmiller, opened in St Andrews in the Barron Theatre in October 2016. It is making its Fringe debut 4th-19th (not 6th&13th) August 2017 at theSpace on North Bridge, Perth Theatre.

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