Heavy metal

5th July 1996 at 01:00
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the pioneering engineer remembered and honoured for some of the most outstanding and innovative achievements of the 19th century, was a fanatical genius ahead of his time.

Seen through the eyes of his two children, Florence and Isambard, Tim Newton's play Iron Dreams, for Pop Up charts the life and work of Brunel, as its affects their lives and dreams.

Newton makes young Isambard a romantic dreamer, while Florence shares her father's passion for engineering. The emotional conflict of Isambard who tries to become the engineer his father assumes he's destined to be and second, to tell him he never will be, is weighed against Florence's own agony of being a girl with a "man's" talents.

The play is as much about being true to one's self as it is an historical piece on the finest engineer of the last century. Tightly written and excellently acted, it shows not just Brunel's success as an engineer but how that success made him something of a failure as a father. Terence Frisch is a convincingly bombastic but kindly Brunel whose obsession with his own vision of the future blinds him to the emotional needs of his children.

It is this sort of theatre which fires imaginations, brings history to life and makes children want to learn.

Iron Dreams tours until July 21. Details and schedule 0171 275 8376

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