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Longitude review at Greenwich Theatre

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On the surface, the story of how one man solved the age-old problem of longitude may sound a little dry. Indeed, the less technical among us may not fully understand longitude and are most likely happy to remain ignorant.

It really does not matter. An interest in matters maritime is far from a prerequisite to enjoying this cracking yarn of class struggles, jealousy and corruption, played out by characters including no less than King George III himself.

The true story of John Harrison, an uneducated carpenter who solved the problem of how to measure longitude at sea – a puzzle that confounded the most famous scientific minds of the era – enraged the establishment, with many of them refusing to acknowledge or believe that a social inferior had discovered what they could not.

Shylock author Arnold Wesker tells the tale through the eyes of Harrison’s long-suffering wife Elizabeth, a witty, motherly woman played with great warmth by Mossie Smith. This is a great tool, that helps to add femininity to what might otherwise be a wholly testosterone-filled adventure.

A great, ugly, oafish man is our hero Harrison – played to great effect by Anthony O’Donnell – an oxymoron who makes himself charming by being utterly charmless.

Not only did Harrison discover longitude but this unlikely genius also created the musical scale. As such, the play is beautifully accompanied by a male choir, belting out sea shanties in perfect harmony.

Longitude premiered this week but it is more than likely that this charming play will enjoy a great many outings onto the stage in the years to come.

Production Information

Greenwich Theatre, October 6-29

Author
Arnold Wesker
Director
Fiona Laird
Producer
Greenwich Theatre
Cast includes
Anthony O’Donnell, Mossie Smith, Hadley Fraser, Giles Taylor
Running time
2hr 20mins
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