Karine Polwart: The Only Light Was Stars

Friday 7 February 2020

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“Our cleverness has grown prodigiously – but not our wisdom.” Sir Martin Ryle

The Only Light Was Stars – presented exclusively for the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival – is a work-in-progress version of a brand new theatre show by Karine Polwart, the follow-up to the widely acclaimed Wind Resistance.

In November 1572, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe observes a “new star” in the constellation of Cassiopeia. It’s not the birth of a new star at all, as it happens, but a death, a supernova explosion. Brahe’s detailed observations revolutionise European understanding of the Earth’s place in the universe.

Four centuries later, Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Ryle is awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his pioneering work in radio astronomy. Yet Ryle’s last published work before his death poses the ethical question: should fundamental science be stopped?

Award-winning songwriter, folk-singer and theatre-maker, Karine Polwart maps a journey that takes in pre-Galilean astronomy, Greek myth, 1980s and 21st century nuclear waste disposal. In doing so, she wonders where curiosity and research yield to recklessness and asks: how can we be good ancestors?

Reviews of Wind Resistance: