Camden NewJournal (London) 21 April 2005
New End Theatre
By RACHEL CALTON
IN thepremiere of Carl Djerassi’s Phallacy, science and art do battle on stage. She is an arthistorian, passionately dedicated to antiquities and most importantly thebronze statue of a young male nude.
He is a scientist,eminent in his field, able to pin dates to antiques using highly-developedtechnology.
When hesteps in and re-attributes the date of the statue, undoing her publishedhypothesis that it is a Roman original, a lively debate is born.
Does the“crass” financial value of art reduce its aesthetic value?
Doesscientific analysis rule out wider historic interpretations? Can passionoutweigh objectivity? Can one rule of investigation ever bring us the truth?
However,this is not just the battle of truths, it is the battle of two academics, bothas impassioned by the debate as they are devious in their ways to undermineeach other.
This givesway to strongly played characters in an entertaining and jocular relationship.
Theinterplay between the two professors and their younger underlings is witty andlight-hearted and anybody who fears intellectual overkill can rest at ease withHamish Clark as Otto. Best known for his role as kilt-donning Duncan inBBC’s Monarch of the Glen, Hamish’s fun-loving humour works just as well onstage. The performance is as funny and flirtatious as it is topical and clever.
Like TomStoppard’s Arcadia, Phallacy is cleverly staged. History and the present day actthemselves out on the same stage, the interplay showing the characters’struggle to find the statue’s true story.
Even thoughcompromises have to be made to tie up the play, the love interest between theunderlings that looks to span the divide has an interesting outcome.
CarlDjerassi, also author of Calculus, is a renowned scientist. He is best known for theinvention of the contraceptive pill, an achievement which made him the onlyliving person to be included in the Sunday Times