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The Theory of Relativity

Space @ Surgeons Hall


This is a small gem of a musical piece by Brian Hill (better known for Bedknobs and Broomsticks) with music and lyrics by Neil Bartram, exploring the stories of young adults making connections with each other, negotiating the emotional and practical complexities of adulthood through friendships, straight and gay relationships, learning to trust, learning to compromise, learning to cope with disappointment and learning to love.

The title is initially puzzling, with the full cast opening in school uniform, reciting the Theory of Relativity – which offered a sense of a safe and logical framework for life, but also a feeling of bewilderment for those not knowledgeable in science (as young people may indeed feel about the world of adults). Indeed, one character, the gawky but endearing class geek recites segments of the Theory as a mantra of self-assurance, before attempting to court a girl who is attracted, but suffers from Mysophobia – she is deeply disturbed by his gifts of cake – made with his hands. The situation is funny and touching.

The musical takes us on a journey with this and several other couples, including two girls telling the story of their intense, ill-matched friendship through high school to college, at which point their roles as the pretty one and the dull one become reversed, and the friendship implodes – many women in the audience will identify with that, or may have witnessed something similar in their lives. A particularly poignant piece is that of a girl who is attracted to the Bad Boy in town – she sings touchingly of their developing relationship, whilst he mooches moodily, taking all but giving nothing back – with inevitable consequences. A boy who feels isolated in his hometown, where he does not fit into the conventional mores (expressed through his taste in fruit), finally finds a kindred spirit at college – expressing a sense of joy in a gay relationship without preaching or moralising. Another couple struggle to live together due to the boy’s cat allergy – amusingly played out in the lithe company of four attentive cats.

As always, Zenith can be relied on to provide professional performances beyond their years. Voices are strong, some almost operatic, used with confidence and engagement in the material. Their acting ability is uniformly good, conveying charm, humour, affection and an occasional sense of danger with admirable maturity. This is a performance that one would happily watch again.

This show has now finished at the Fringe for this year.

However you can read more about Zenith Youth Theatre here.

The Theory of Relativity
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