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Newton - Bad apple or just bad politics?

Review by Emma Whitelaw

MOST people are well aware of the scientific genius of Isaac Newton, what some may not know is that he was also a manipulative mastermind.

Calculus, now showing at The New End Theatre, is an exposé of the darker side of the man who developed the Universal Law of Gravitation.

Written by acclaimed scientist-turned-playwright, Professor Carl Djerassi, most famous for inventing the contraceptive pill, the story takes the form of a play within a play.

It is about a moral calculus, rather than a mathematical calculus,and is told through the eyes of the men Newton tried to manipulate.

David Gant is absolutely stunning as Sir John Vanburgh. After receiving outrageous criticism for his previously risqué works, and with the aid of his life-long friend, Colly Cibber, played by Michael Fenner, a sickly Sir John takes it upon himself to write his last play. A play so scandalous that even the critics will blush!

But the scandal cannot be through sex. No, it must be something far more shocking than that.

Enter Sir Isaac Newton. In 1712, a Royal Society, of which Newton was president, was set up to adjudicate the validity of claims, by Newton, that his German rival, Lebniz, had plagiarised his work.

Now, most historians agree that Newton and Lebniz developed their theories simultaneously and independently.

Hence, it became apparent that Newton acted unethically when he not only claimed sole credit, but banded together an army of his supporters to form an investigating committee to prove his claims were true.

The entire cast was fantastic; all of them are incredibly talented individuals and, as a team, they work remarkably well.

I must give mention to Nick Wilton, however, as the loveable Abraham de Moivre, he was just brilliant!

Getting many a giggle from the audience, he played the underprivileged mathematician impeccably.

The costuming was also superb; in keeping with the period, it was most authentic.

And the set, too, was very well done, as was the sound and lighting design.

All together it made for a fantastic period piece.

As a scientist, Newton was nothing short of brilliant, but as a man he left a lot to be desired.

Cunning and devious, his story is not only poignant; it also makes for great entertainment!

Calculus by Carl Djerassi. Directed by Andy Jordan. Design by Michael Taylor. Lighting by Chris Corner. Sound by Simon Sinfield. Starring Michael Fenner, David Gant, Susan Sheridan, Roger May, John Kane, Nick Wilton, Lynette Edwards, Jenny Pink, Jennie Fox, Thaila Zucchi, Anthony Davids, Rob Dugay, Martin Finehold, David Harley, Derek Horsham, David Lenson, Craig O Hara, Stephen Stachowicz. July 28 to August 28, 2004 at the New End Theatre, 27 New End, Hampstead London NW3. Box Office 08700 332 733.

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