REVIEW: The Element in the Room, The Customs House, South Shields

John Hinton as Marie Curie in The Element in the Room.
John Hinton as Marie Curie in The Element in the Room.

Behind every successful woman is a man in a dress pretending to be her ... or something like that.

Actor John Hinton donned a frock to portray renowned physicist and chemist Marie Curie in the third and final show of his scientrilogy.

After taking on the roles of Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein in previous shows to tell their life stories, this show sees Hinton tell us all about the first ever woman to win the Nobel Prize.

Even as I announced in the office that I'd been to see a musical comedy about Marie Curie last night, there were quite a few chuckles from my co-workers. Not at the thought of how hilarious the show must have been, but how peculiar it was.

They can be forgiven for thinking it wouldn't be their cup of tea. After all, it is a rather unusual concept, but what they don't realise, is how utterly brilliant and rib-ticklingly funny the show, which has the full title The Element in the Room: A Radioactive Musical Comedy About the Death and Life of Marie Curie, was.

Hinton, who also writes the Tangram Theatre show, was accompanied only by his real-life wife and show husband Jo Eagle as Pierre Curie. The talented musician played the accordion as Hinton worked his way through Curie's intriguing life story.

With absolutely no set, Hinton mimed his way through everything and we used our imaginations to picture his props and locations, but the actor has such magnetism and talent, that you were right there with him.

Lighting was used cleverly to create visuals, bathing Hinton in luminous green light as he was 'handling' radium.

The actor has a clear passion for storytelling and the audience laughed and learned as he took on the guise of the scientist and many other characters, jumping back and forth to have conversations with himself.

Hinton is a man of many voices. It was brilliant watching him talk to himself as he played Curie's daughters, factory workers, Greek philosophers and American journalist Missy Mattingley Meloney, who raised money to buy Curie some radium after learning she had none left despite being the one who discovered it. There was never any confusion over who he was meant to be. Each person had their own individual voice, accent, posture, facial expressions and mannerisms.

The sheer volume of text, laden with complicated scientific language, that Hinton gets through in the show is fiercely impressive - the man is a magnificent talent.

The show is delightfully chaotic and involves a bit of audience participation too. The songs are brilliantly performed and memorable - they're still going round in my head now.

While it is a show about a scientist, it's not just for those with a die-hard interest. Once school was over with, I gave the subject little to no attention, but I have loved each and every one of these shows.

I'm proud as punch that I saw all three, and if you get the chance, you should catch them all too.

Click here to read our review of The Origin of the Species by means of Natural Selection or the Survival of (R)Evolutionary Theories in the face of Scientific and Ecclesiastical Objections: being a Musical Comedy about Charles Darwin (1809-1882).

Click here to read our review of Albert Einstein: Relativitively Speaking.

Twitter: @vickinewmanjp