One of the UK’s finest actors, Ian McDiarmid reprises his electrifying performance as Galileo, leading an ensemble cast in A LIFE OF GALILEO, when the theatrical tour-de-force appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 17th March to Saturday 22nd March.  Directed by Roxana Silbert and translated by playwright Mark Ravenhill, this celebrated production by the Royal Shakespeare Company of arguably Brecht’s greatest play comes to Bath following its highly acclaimed opening in Stratford-Upon-Avon last spring.


In the year 1609, brilliant Italian scientist Galileo makes an astonishing discovery that will change the world forever.  Observing the night sky using the recently-invented telescope, he sees the solar system with a clarity never before experienced by astronomers. But as he sets out to prove that the earth moves around the sun, he creates uproar and finds himself facing the wrath of the church.  When his opponents convince the Pope that these new findings pose a threat to religious dogma and may spark unrest and civil disobedience, Galileo is called before the Inquisition as a heretic, forced to publicly denounce his theories and abandon a truth he fervently believes in.


“A terrific performance from Ian McDiarmid. Compelling throughout. I found myself gripped by this lively and ultimately moving production which makes big ideas zing and sing.”  – Daily Telegraph


A Life of Galileo - Ian McDiarmid as Galileo - Photo credit Ellie Kurttz - (ref82)Ian McDiarmid is perhaps best known for his iconic role as Emperor Palpatine in George Lucas’s epic Star Wars films.  His other film credits include Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Gorky Park and Dragonslayer. His many leading theatre roles include, most recently, Timon of Athens for Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Emperor and Galilean for the National Theatre, John Gabriel Borkman for The Donmar Warehouse and Six Characters in Search of an Author for the Chichester Festival Theatre and in the West End. He has previously performed at the Theatre Royal Bath in The Doctor’s Dilemma in 1998 and The Jew of Malta in 1999.


“McDiarmid’s spellbinding performance.”The Guardian




Sadie Shimmin, who appears as Mrs Sarti, has performed with the RSC and the National Theatre on many occasions, including the NT production of Wild Oats, which toured to Bath in 1995. Her numerous television credits range from Wallander to Whitechapel, and she can currently be seen on television as Miss Plunkett in the popular ITV series Mr Selfridge.


Katherine Manners plays the role of Virginia. She has performed at the National Theatre on many occasions and was last seen at the Theatre Royal Bath in The Master Builder in 2003 prior to the West End. Her television credits include A Woman in Love and War: Vera Brittain, Doctors and Casualty.

A Life of Galileo - Ian McDiarmid (Galileo), Chris Lew Kum Hoi (Cosimo de Medici), Paul Westwood (Ludovico) - credit Ellie Kurtz


The ensemble cast is completed by Matthew Aubrey, Paul Hamilton, Chris Lew Kum Hoi, Elizabeth Marsh, JosephO’Malley, Patrick Romer, Jo Servi, Paul Westwood and Cath Whitefield.


Roxana Silbert is artistic director of Birmingham Repertory Theatre and an associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. She was artistic director of Paines Plough Theatre Company from 2005 to 2009; literary director at the Traverse Theatre from 2001 to 2004; associate director at the Royal Court 1998 to 2000; and associate director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 1997.  Her recent work for the Royal Shakespeare Company includes directing Dunsinane, which toured to the Theatre Royal Bath in 2013; Measure for Measure; and Richard III.


“A sharp new adaptation by Mark Ravenhill that emphasises the dark comedy and diversely rich theatrical inventiveness.”The Independent



Playwright Mark Ravenhill is writer in residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company. He studied English and Drama at Bristol University, and was literary manager of Paines Plough, a company founded to develop new writing, from 1995 to 1997. His play Shopping and F**king opened at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in 1996, before touring nationally and internationally – playing Bath in 1998. Ravenhill was appointed artistic associate at the National Theatre in 2002. His numerous plays also include: Mother Clap’s Molly House at the National Theatre, a production which toured to Bath in 2001; The Cut at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2006; Citizenship at the National Theatre in 2006;  and more recently, Nation, adapted from the Terry Pratchett novel at the National Theatre in 2009; Ghost Story for Playhouse: Live, Sky Arts in 2010; Ten Plagues, a song cycle with music by Conor Mitchell at the Traverse Theatre in 2011 and Wilton’s Music Hall in 2013; and a new English version of The Coronation of Poppea at the King’s Head Theatre in 2011.


One of the leading theatre practitioners of the 20th century, Bertolt Brecht (1898 – 1956) was a German poet, playwright, theatre director and Marxist. Together with his wife, the actress Helene Weigel, Brecht established post-war theatre company, the Berliner Ensemble. Between 1938 and 1945 he wrote The Life of Galileo, which dealt with the protagonist’s self-hatred for giving up his convictions in the face of the Inquisition; Mother Courage and Her Children; The Good Person of Szechwan; and The Caucasian Chalk Circle.  Brecht later worked on his famous adaptation of Antigone and spent much of his energy recording his theoretical ideas. His many plays also include The Threepenny Opera, The Mother and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.


A Life of Galileo appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 17th March to Saturday 22nd March.  Tickets are available from the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or online at

Photo credit: Ellie Kurttz