By Jeremy Miles
In his day he was known as the English Leonardo. Robert Hooke was a home-grown genius who in the late 17th century briefly dazzled London’s scientific elite.
Christopher Wren was in awe of him but switched allegiance when rising star Isaac Newton made it clear that HE was the main man at the Royal Society.
At least that’s way Siobhan Nicholas’ finely crafted one-man drama tells it.
It finds actor Chris Barnes making compelling work of the story of the inspired artist, architect, engineer and physicist sidelined by jealous rivals.
Newton, it claims, even stole Hooke’s theories about the laws of gravity.
There were many other slights too. He was virtually air-brushed from history. Only now in the 21st century is his contribution to science finally being recognised
Barnes appears first as Hooke’s turncoat friend, the artist Jack Hoskins, and then as Hooke himself. It’s an astonishing performance which rewrites 17th century history as we know it. Many things are turned on their heads including at one point Mr Barnes himself.
We learn that Hooke anticipated air travel, telephones, atomic theory, the evolution of the species, man landing on the moon and still found time to help Sir Christopher Wren build both St Paul’s and The Monument. To do all that and still manage to be forgotten for 300 years is extraordinary.