“What do you think’s gonna happen when someone like that gets their hands on a nuclear weapon” commented the aggressively atheistic Christopher Hitchins recently in reference to Bin Laden. Well, something at least as worrying as what would’ve happened had Hitler gotten hold of one, which is the primer for Michael Frayn’s 1998 musing on what happened when German physicist Werner Heisenberg (Owen Oakeshott) went to see his mentor Neils Bohr (Tom Mannion) in 1941.
Relentlessly paced, challenging, and bolstered by a trio of immersed performances.
The play presents us with the ghosts of the two great scientists meeting in the afterlife. Their faint-memoried reconstructions of the past serve as our curious musings on what happened that night, and the play presents us with many possibilities. Perhaps the nationalistic Heisenberg was seeking Bohr’s help in creating the A-bomb for Hitler, or perhaps he was visiting his old friend and father figure, with Bohr’s wife Margrethe (Sally Edwards) making it a surrogate nuclear (boom boom) family. And fifty other possibilities, with the conclusion being that, like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, we can never know anything for sure.
Director Tony Cownie delivers a superb rendition of Frayn’s erudite, humane and thrilling script. Relentlessly paced, challenging, and bolstered by a trio of immersed performances, with Oakeshott’s thrilling and emotional portrayal proving a standout, there’s barely a moment to gasp until the curtain falls. When it does, you’ll likely be reflecting on the script’s topicality; from the morality of science so prevalent with stem cell research, to the delicacy of our planet and how easily it might be done away with, be it by an atomic bomb or an ecological one.
until Sat 9 May
See Lyceum website for more details