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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton


 Inherit the Wind


Old Vic
Director Trevor Nunn

As I write, on the eve of what promises to be a massive march against climate change, the global warming deniers are all over the wireless and weíre having to defend, yet again, the bleeding obvious.

So it isnít just that half the American population still think Darwin was wrong that makes it pertinent to stage a new production of Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Leeís 1950s play Inherit the Wind.

Based on the true-life 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial itís a courtroom drama centred around the case of smalltown bible-belt schoolteacher Bertram Cates who dares to introduce the idea of evolution to his charges.

It attracts nationwide attention and brings two big personalities to battle it out before the law: for the prosecution bible-thumping Matthew Harrison Brady (David Troughton), and for the defence Henry Drummond (Kevin Spacey).

Itís a lively production with singing and dancing and comedy, too. Spacey plays it for laughs mostly, a white-haired, stooping figure belying a sharp intelligence and tongue, lashing out at willful ignorance with reason and wit on his side.

Despite the case being artificially loaded in his favour, Brady doesnít stand a chance. In fact Drummondís true worthy adversary is a cynical hack from Baltimore (and this before The Wire), E K Hornbeck (Mark Dexter).

Hornbeck is set up to be be the villain, not because heís a creationist but because heís too much of an evolutionist, refusing to concede an inch to biblical mysticism in a harsh but true speech in the final scene.

He doesnít have the last word, though. In the final moments Drummond holds a copy of The Origin of Species in one hand and The Bible in the other, weighing their worth and implying they are equal.

This is a terrible sell-out, sentimental liberal pluralist claptrap. After all that, are we saying the fundamentalist Christian version of events are just as valid as scienceís? Drummond is not just betraying Darwin, heís betraying Cates, the man heís earlier encouraged to be a hero by standing up for the truth.

Iím not supposed to be, but Iím on Hornbeckís side on this one. But perhaps Iím just another cynical hack.


December 4, 2009

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