- A Disappearing Number
name = A Disappearing Number
image_size = 160px
genre = Drama
setting = 1910s
subject = two very smart guys ponder 1 + 2 + 3 + ...
premiere = 2007
Barbican Theatre London, England
orig_lang = English
web = http://www.complicite.org/productions/detail.html?id=43
"A Disappearing Number" is a 2007 play by English playwright
Simon McBurney, inspired by the collaboration during the 1910s between two of the most remarkable pure mathematicians of the twentieth century, Srinivasa Ramanujan, a poor Brahmin from South India, and Cambridge university don G.H. Hardy.
It was a co-production between UK-based theatre company
Complicite, Ruhrfestspiele, Wiener Festwochen, Holland Festival and Theatre Royal Plymouth. "A Disappearing Number" premiered in Plymouth, toured the internationally, and played at the Barbicanin Autumn 2007. It was directed by Simon McBurneywith music by Nitin Sawhney. The production is 110 minutes with no intermission.
Ramanujan first attracted Hardy’s attention by proving that the sum of 1 + 2 + 3 + ... would equal minus one-twelfth. Hardy realised that this confusing presentation was an application of the
Riemann zeta functionwith s = -1. [Marcus du Sautoy, " The Music of the Primes"]
The play includes live tabla playing which “morphs seductively into pure mathematics”, as the "
Financial Times" review put it, “especially when … its rhythms shade into chants of number sequences reminiscent of the libretto to Philip Glass’s "Einstein On The Beach". One can hear the beauty of the sequences without grasping the rules that govern them.”
The play had two strands of narrative. The show interwove the passionate intellectual relationship between Hardy and the more intuitive Ramanujan, with the present-day story of a man (intitially played by McBurney) and his maths lecturer partner. She travels to India in Ramanujan’s footsteps and eventually dies. He follows, to get closer to her ghost. Meanwhile, 100 years previously, Ramanujan is travelling in the opposite direction, making the trip to England that eventually kills him. Partition (as a maths concept) is paralleled appositely with the
partition of Indiaand Pakistan, and diverging and converging series in mathematics become a metaphor for the Indian diaspora.
Awards and nominations
* 2007 Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best New Play
* 2007 Evening Standard Award for Best Play
* 2007 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play
* [http://www.complicite.org/productions/detail.html?id=43 A Disappearing Number official webite]
* [http://www.barbican.org.uk/theatre/event-detail.asp?ID=4928 "A Disappearing Number" at the Barbican]
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