COPENHAGEN
Duchess Theatre, London WC2
Reviewed October, 2000

Michael Frayn's mystery about quantum physics remains a West End oddity (having moved from the National in 1999), but a welcome one.

Plays of ideas don't get many major outings these days still less those which, as Frayn's piece does, try not only to explain the Uncertainty Principle in physics but to reflect it in their structure.  More historical investigation and speculation than high drama, its events are driven by a single question: what drove German physicist Werner Heisenberg to visit his former mentor, the half-Jewish Niels Bohr, in occupied Denmark in 1941?  Was he after help with the Nazi nuclear research programme, knowledge of the Americans' progress or something else?  Frayn has Bohr, his wife and Heisenberg re-enact and examine the meeting, discussing in the process how science, politics and morality may intertwine.

Michael Blakemore's production is sparse but scrupulous, as the three characters move around the circular playing area like sub-atomic particles, with some of the audience ranged above and behind them as if in a lecture theatre.  It is a demanding piece, but one that repays attention.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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