Candles, how do you use them? To light a romantic dinner or tryst? To see during a black out? On a birthday cake? How often do you think about how these ubiquitous objects work? Michael Faraday, one of the great experimental scientists of his day, did, and thoroughly.
In 1860 as part of the annual Christmas Lectures for Children held by the Royal Institute of Great Britain, Faraday gave a series of six lectures entitled ‘The Chemical History of the Candle.’ It is these lectures that form the basis for the Fringe Show, Faraday’s Candle at RiAus in Australia.
Simple in its staging, Faraday’s Candle more or less takes the first lecture, adds a few modern touches and delights the audience with the same experiments and demonstrations Faraday used over 150 years ago. Despite the original lectures being aimed at children, when remodelled for the modern audience they have lost little of their original fascination. The mostly adult audience thoroughly enjoyed the demonstrations provided by Bernard Caleo as Michael Faraday.
Personally, while I found the presentation of the lectures interesting, the actual chemistry and science behind the lectures were nothing new to me and as a result I got a little distracted with the simplicity of it all. But the rest of the audience did not share my feelings, at the end, all I heard was talk of how fascinating they found the whole show and how they would never look at a candle in the same light again.
Undoubtedly if you already know the science, greater familiarity with the original lectures would have added an extra layer to Faraday’s Candle giving you more to examine and consider throughout the performance.
There is a lovely symmetry to Faraday’s Candle, given it is based on lectures presented over 150 years ago in the mother organisation to RiAus. If it is brought back to Adelaide it really ought to always be performed in this venue, considering the history of the lectures there is no better place for it.