Early in the last century, British mathematician G H Hardy described his collaboration with Indian math legend Srinivasa Ramanujan as “the one romantic incident” in his life.
Now, two days before A Disappearing Number, a British 2007 play on the two mathematicians is staged in Mumbai, its director Simon McBurney cannot help describing his production as an “intimate and romantic experience” that was meant to tour India, Ramanujan’s homeland.
Produced by McBurney’s theatre group Complicite, the multiple award winning play juxtaposes the relationship between Hardy and Ramanujan in World War I England with another, present day relationship of a math teacher and her student.
Brought to the city by Prithvi Theatre and the British Council, it will run at NCPA’s Jamshed Bhabha Theatre from August 9 to 11. “It’s interesting how a brilliant but uptight British homosexual mathematician collaborated in so many ways with a South Indian boy whose mind was open to everything,” said McBurney, who got the idea for the play 10 years ago after reading Hardy’s Mathematician’s Apology.
This is Complicite’s second Mumbai tour. The play is explores the collaboration between math and music. The play will have live tabla pieces composed by Indian British composer Nitin Sawhney.
Though the play portrays mathematicians at work on complex theorems, McBurney believes lay audiences have nothing to be overwhelmed about. “Mathematicians are artists creating patterns, and it’s more a discussion on the nature of creativity,” he said. “It doesn't matter if you can’t follow everything what matters is the relationship and the emotional journey through it.”