The Candlestickmaker - Notes
In many ways astrophysics is a collection of modern fairy tales that seek to make sense of our universe; the characters are Black Holes and White Dwarves, the plots involve electron degeneracy and other strange events. The heroes are the scientists who seek to understand and explain the laws that govern the forces of life and death. Chandrasekhar is a true hero for he imagined the unimaginable and showed the universe to be a more strange and horrific place than we wished to believe. 70 years after Chandrasekhar’s discovery, Black Holes are part of our modern lexicon along with the knowledge that the universe is not infinite and eternal, that we cannot seek our happiness in the heavens alone.
The themes of astrophysics are so large that we have not attempted to explore them all here. Chandrasekhar’s life is extremely rich with dramatic material but we didn’t want to make a textbook or a biography. Rather, we aimed to create a comic world to entertain and delight and were intrigued by the burden of genius and the human themes of eternity and happiness. Chandrasekhar, his life and his work, underpins all that you will see tonight but the events of the story are our own invention that I trust do justice to the greatness and humility of the man himself.
In all creative endeavors, the risk of failure is a constant companion. I have felt this very keenly developing The Candlestickmaker. The enormous success of Krishnan’s Dairy has been a spur to keep extending our style. So easy was Krishnan’s Dairy’s creation and so wonderful was its reception that the show seemed blessed. This show has been much, much harder work. Things started well. 3 months studying together in Italy gave Jacob and I space and distance to dream a little as well as a unique exposure to working closely with many different cultures. But following that we were so busy touring Krishnan’s Dairy that it was often difficult to see this work on its own terms and we had to fight a deep desire to recreate Krishnan’s Dairy with a different title.
Naturally we’ve kept Jacob, we’ve got a new family of masks who have helped develop and define the world of the play and many members of the Krishnan’s team remain. We’ve also sought a way of telling that is more appropriate to the themes of extinction and eternity, to the vast reaches of space, time, the imagination and the landscapes of India. It’s been great to bring puppetry and another performer into the equation as this has opened up fresh possibilities for our style of telling. In developing The Candlestickmaker we’ve traveled down some fascinating paths to strange and wonderful lands and been lost more than a few times. We owe a huge debt to Murray Edmond for his selfless commitment to the project. He hasn’t been afraid to tell us when were seeing mirages and without him we wouldn’t have found our way to this place.
I'm a little uncomfortable being called a writer. It's a cap that doesn't quite fit or perhaps, more accurately, looks too big on me. I've only written three things. It's probably why my programme notes end up being a little sheepish and apologetic. The notes for Krishnan's Dairy were essentially a disclaimer designed to waive any responsibility for transgressions against my Indian heritage. It's a responsibility I'd like to pick up and waive again vigorously for The Candlestickmaker. The play is set in India. But it's an India of my own making. I trample rough-shod over barriers of language, geography, religion and culture. My size eleven hob-nail boots made of sacred cow leather and stamped with that oh so disreputable brand: "artistic license". Whether this causes offense only time and my mother will tell.
Not satisfied with the prospect of being disenfranchised by just one culture I have 'Riverdanced' my size elevens through another - the culture of science. It too is a culture I have a tenuous claim on, I have a B.Sc in Microbiology. However, the science of The Candlestickmaker centres on the heady realms of astrophysics.
My intrepid director, Justin, and I poured over textbooks, essays and biographies to research The Candlestickmaker. We were enlightened, inspired and often baffled by what we read. You see writing a play isn't rocket science but astrophysics is. There were some points when we just ran out of brain. I may have a B.Sc in Microbiology but I'm no Isaac Einstein. The presentation of scientific concepts and ideas in this play is only as accurate as our ability to understand them and when the going got rough… we made things up. All the things that make Science great: completeness, accuracy, impartiality are not necessarily the stuff of great theatre. The true bond between Science and Art is imagination: great Art and great Science require great imagination.
This is the synthesis to which we aspire, our formula for happiness. This synthesis is embodied in the inspiration for this play, Subramanyan Chandrasekah, and it is to him and his family that I owe the greatest apology if I have caused any offense. I hope this is not the case and that The Candlestickmaker is viewed in the spirit that it was intended: a tribute to Chandra, a man who slipped in and out of the last century with little fanfare, but quietly changed the way we look at the universe.