Einstein is back at his brilliant best at the Spread Eagle

Our arts critic, BELLA BARTOCK, was transported in time and space when she went to the theatre this week. And she wasn’t even on the vodka

My mother, when I was growing up in Budapest all those years ago, always said that she thought that Herr and Frau Einstein’s little boy, when we visited them in Munchen, had a touch of genius about him. “He has a special spark,” Mutter would always say, and laugh, because she felt she had made a joke about Herr Einstein’s new electricity business.

Einstein 2My mother never thought electricity would catch on. So at least she was right about one thing.

But you cannot imagine my deep, deep disappointment, when after all these years, I saw little Albert once more, standing there on the stairs in the Spread Eagle public house in central Croydon one evening this week, and he did not recognise me, his old Hungarian friend.

“Welcome! Welcome!” Einstein, somewhat taller than I remember him being, announced to everyone else there at the bar, cheerily encouraging them upstairs to the studio theatre, where he proceeded to deliver one of his Princeton university lectures.

He said he’d won the Nobel Prize! Who knew? Mother was obviously right about him. I should never have doubted her.

And all that stuff about E to the M to the C squared..? Was there some science involved in all this rap? The young lady next to me joined in enthusiastically, making all these strange shapes with her hands as if she was some sort of Ali G character off TV. I’m sure that the children would love to see this, as they might learn something about mass and energy, but for me, my arthritis just couldn’t keep up.

During the evening, Albert was quite enthusiastic about his music, somehow cleverly channeling songs through Frank Sinatra, the Supremes and Green Day. I did get confused, though, when Albert invited on to the stage his mother and first wife, because I thought they were both supposed to be dead. I did once hear a rumour that he’d “got it together” with Marilyn Monroe; seems hard to imagine, because I don’t think she was really his type.

Given that this lecture was supposed to be delivered to an institute of advanced study at a top American university, and was supposed to be all about the General Theory of Relativity and the Special Theory of Relativity, I found I managed to follow it all very well. Not too bad for an old gal. Though he might want to do some work on the wrapping up of a young couple in a bed sheet. And his use of string left a bit to be desired, too.

With no interval, it was not until the very end, after Albert had spent five minutes in a darkened corner in deep conversation with his own brain, that my gesticulating companion next to me explained that, in fact, this was all the doing of someone called John Hinton, and his friend Jo Eagle.

I had been transported! Though not in the nasty manner in which Albert might have been had he hung around in Germany any longer in 1933.

Time had flown past, just as Albert… or this chap, Hinton, had said it might. It had been an absorbing experience, bringing back so many memories of the old days for me, and apparently some very sad ones for Albert, too. Especially the bit about having his brain removed.

My companion told me that Hinton and Eagle had been on the stage before with their Tangram Theatre Company, performing this Relativitively Speaking in Edinburgh and in Brighton to widespread acclaim. And deservedly so; I could almost tell you how inertial frames of reference work now, if you give me a piece of rope – not string – and a couple of willing volunteers.

Because if this was just a performance, and my companion assures me that it was because she saw Einstein/Hinton in the bar afterwards, then it was captivating and convincing, the end result of some quite brilliant writing.

As brilliant as I remember Albert being when he was a small boy all those years ago.

  • Relativitively Speaking is being performed at the Spreadeagle Theatre on Katharine Street, Croydon, tonight (Nov 14) and Saturday (Nov 15). Tickets are just £10 each. To book, click here

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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