• Date:
    Wednesday, July 1, 1998
    Review by:
    Darren Dalglish

    The following review is from the Cottesloe performance

    Before the war they were both old friends who had worked together doing research on the atom, but now they are on opposite sides of a world war. Why did Heisenberg visit Bohr at this time in 1941? Apparently, Scientists and historians have argued for some time about this visit and about what the two physicists actually discussed. To this day no one knows for sure! In Michael Frayn's play most of the events are based on fact, but the main topic of what was actually said to each other has been surmised by the author.

    Designer Peter J Davison, has constructed a bare and simple set. The drama is performed in the round as the seating is on all sides of the auditorium and the stage is set in the middle. The three actors are on stage the entire time with only 3 chairs as props, so this demands much talent from the cast to keep your attention, and the good news is that the actors do rise to the challenge.

    All three actors perform convincingly, although they all had the occasional bad line. Mind you, this is not surprising, as there is a lot of complicated scientific talk, which must have been very hard for the actors to learn and remember. David Burke is fine playing the kind and compassionate 'Niels Bohr', Sara Kestelman as his strong-willed wife ' Margrethe Bohr' puts in a hardy performance and Matthew Marsh plays the nervous and anguished Heisenberg, impressively.

    The play has received favourable notices from the popular press. NICOLAS DE JONGH of the EVENING STANDARD says it is a "fine production". JOHN PETER of THE SUNDAY TIMES says it is "his finest play". PETER HEPPLE of THE STAGE says Michael Frayn's latest play " brings a brainstretching intellectualism back to the theatre and is perhaps surprisingly absorbing". JANE EDWARDES of TIME OUT says, "Undeniably crammed with expository dialogue, there is still a fascination about this play.."

    This is a fascinating play that is captivating. However, some of you may find it hard going with all the scientific talk, but nevertheless the play is rather easy to follow.


    Next review by Rodney_R_Anderson 
    May 1999

    Three wonderful performances accompanied the R.N.T.'s production of Michael Frayn's Copenhagen now playing at the Duchess Theatre.  Copenhagen is a fictionalized account of the meetings of two scientists who worked on the inventions surrounding atoms and atom bombs between WWI and/during WWII.  One scientist, a Jew, was from Denmark and the mentor while his student was for Germany.  They worked together before the war and then separated as each had allegiances to different countries.  The first meeting takes place in 1941 in which the student tries to find out if his mentor knows what the Allies nuclear capabilities are.  Later on in 1962, they discuss their motives and why the German's lost the war from the scientific point of view.  The play is very complex and I have to admit that some of the scientific terms went right over head.  However, it was very intriguing as to why the scientist's made many of their decisions and how it affected the war efforts.  Sara Kestelman, Dav! id Burke, and Mathew Marsh were superb.  The set, which amounted to three chairs surrounded by stage seating occupied by the audience allowed the actors to dive into the material with shear abandon.  I would have thought I'd fallen asleep but it was just too interesting to miss anything.  I had to buy the play to read.

    (Rodney R Anderson)

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