Play of the week: The Physicists, Donmar Warehouse, London, WC2

 

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The Independent Culture

Using a witty new version by Jack Thorne, Friedrich Durrenmatt's absurdist tragicomedy from 1961 is revived with aplomb by Josie Rourke, bringing home how this product of the Cold War is like what you might get if you were to hand over the concerns of Dr Strangelove to a team comprised of Pirandello and Stoppard.

Written under the threat of nuclear annihilation, The Physicists posits a Pirandello-esque scenario in which a scientist is so paranoid that mankind will use his "System of All Possible Discoveries" for evil ends that he poses as a lunatic in order to pursue pure physics clandestinely in prison.

John Heffernan is superlative at conveying the wry humanity of the man and the pain of his emotional sacrifices. The play could seem a clever, dated series of conceits that lead to a barmy parody of Cold War espionage.

But Rourke warms the proceedings with Heffernan's brilliant performance and ensures that the dotty drolleries retain a sharp political edge.

(0844 871 7624; atgtickets.com) to 21 Jul

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