Review: Copenhagen, Tabard Theatre
Published in The Stage, 11.09.2007
Four years before the destruction of Hiroshima, two leading nuclear physicists met in Copenhagen. The exact purpose of Werner Heisenberg’s visit to Niels Bohr in 1941 remains unclear.
Frayn’s play sets them and Bohr’s wife Margrethe together post-death to reflect on the details and ethics of that meeting, grappling with their past obligations and present responsibilities. More broadly, history and morality are mirrored with quantum physics: full of relativity, subjectivity and uncertainty.
Under Elly Green’s direction Copenhagen loses none of its gripping intrigue, as the well-constructed mystery unravels before us. The pitfall of the past is deftly avoided, without nostalgia or sentimentality, and the science is clear and uncondescending.
Roger Ringrose delivers a warm and likeable Bohr while David Shelley neatly encapsulates Heisenberg’s conflict between legacy and liability, adding a slight touch of Blair to the scientist’s mannerisms.
However, thanks in part to the arbitration of Jane Guernier’s muted Margrethe, the action never threatens to explode into passion: always ponderous debate, never personal or political argument. Belle Mundi’s simple blackboard design rife with partially-erased markings perhaps overstates certain themes, while the blocking is all too often transparent in its motives.
Nonetheless, this is a very engaging – if slightly calculated – reprisal of a fantastic text.