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    Solving The Hard Problem

    Discerning theatre-goers can challenge their perceptions with Tom Stoppard's intriguing new play The Hard Problem, which will be screened exclusively at Cinema Nouveau Cinemas from 16 May.

    Under the brilliant direction of Nicholas Hytner, The Hard Problem features a great cast that adds fuel to Stoppard's challenging and mind blowing verbal blitz.

    "I don't think I've ever worked on a more intricately constructed play, or one in which the ideas keep finding themselves embodied in the action," says Hytner, who stepped down as the Director of the National Theatre in March.

    Olivia Vinall is delightful; as Hilary, a young psychology researcher at a brain science institute, who is nursing a private sorrow and a troubling question at work, where psychology and biology meet: "If there is nothing but matter, what is consciousness?"

    Solving The Hard Problem

    Stunning performance

    This is 'the hard problem', which puts Hilary at odds with her colleagues, particularly her first mentor Spike, with Damien Molony delivering an equally stunning performance.

    At odds with her boss Leo and the billionaire founder of the institute, Hilary questions the day when the computer and the fMRI scanner will answer all the questions psychology can ask. Meanwhile Hilary needs a miracle - and she is prepared to pray for one.

    "The 'hard problem', as you probably know, is actually a phrase referring to the problem of accounting for consciousness," says Stoppard. "Most things are not conscious. This table we are sitting at isn't conscious. Vegetables aren't conscious. We are conscious, and nobody understands how we do that; physically, scientifically or metaphysically. Nobody really knows; and that's the 'hard problem'."

    "Many people think that the brain works the way computers work. I have no scientific training, but I just instinctively don't feel that consciousness is the product of a biological computer."

    The Hard Problem Tom Stoppard's first play for the stage since Rock 'n' Roll (Royal Court, 2006)and his first for the National since his trilogy, The Coast of Utopia, in 2002. His long association with the National Theatre began with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead in 1967, and went on to include productions of Jumpers, On the Razzle, Rough Crossing, The Real Inspector Hound, Arcadia, The Invention of Love, The Coast of Utopia and Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (written with André Previn). His stage plays, which have won eight Evening Standard awards and five Tony awards, also include Travesties, The Real Thing and Shakespeare in Love.

    Since becoming Director of the National in April 2003, Nicholas Hytner has directed Henry V, His Dark Materials, The History Boys, Stuff Happens, Henry IV, Southwark Fair, The Alchemist, The Man of Mode, The Rose Tattoo (with Steven Pimlott), Rafta, Rafta ... , Much Ado About Nothing, Major Barbara, England People Very Nice, Phèdre, The Habit of Art, London Assurance, Hamlet, Collaborators, Travelling Light, One Man Two Guvnors, Timon of Athens, People, Cocktail Sticks, Othello, Live from the National Theatre: 50 Years on Stage and Great Britain.

    Simplistic but effective design

    The play has a simplistic but effective design by Bob Crowley, with lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Paul Arditti.

    There is an insightful short film before the play begins that takes you behind the scenes and features some great interviews with Stoppard and Hytner.

    "The idea of real morality is unintelligible without consciousness," Stoppard says. "If it really is just physics, then we're just marking our own homework, and I'm not really pleased with the idea that I'm marking my own homework, because then I can decide whether things are right or wrong myself. That doesn't seem adequate." He says that part of his inspiration for the play was asking: "How do we derive value from what we know of the physical world - whether it's subjective or whether there are external measures?"

    For booking information on the production, go to www.cinemanouveau.co.za or sterkinekor.mobi, You can also download the Ster-Kinekor App on any Nokia, Samsung Android, iPhone or Blackberry smart phone for updates, news and to make bookings. Follow on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, call Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

    For more live theatre on the big screen, go to www.writingstudio.co.za

    About Daniel Dercksen

    Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa and internationally the past 22 years. Visit www.writingstudio.co.za
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