First Night: Rich beauty of love in limbo
First Night Copenhagen Duchess Theatre London
Tuesday 09 February 1999
The play's transfer now to the West End, with the same consummate cast (David Burke, Sara Kestelman, and Matthew Marsh) confirms the justice of all this praise. One of the play's great virtues is its absolute purity of focus; it trains its lens on three characters who are still arguing, in limbo beyond the grave, about what really transpired when the German nuclear physicist Werner Heisenberg made a mysterious, fateful and inconclusive visit to his former teacher and mentor, Niels Bohr, in Nazi-occupied Copenhagen in 1941. Was his mission to warn Bohr of the German atomic bomb programme or to try to recruit him for it?
The play's austere concentration was heightened in the Cottesloe by placing the action on a bare circular set with part of the audience sitting on steeply raked seats at the back, like jurors. The Duchess Theatre has such an intimate lecture-room atmosphere that similar conditions can be created with amazing ease.
Seeing Copenhagen again, I was struck by the powerful way it engages the feelings as well as the intellect, a fact perhaps under-emphasised the first time round. The play is much more than a cerebral thriller about shifting interpretations and the painful ironies that proliferate from the conjunction of pure science and impure Realpolitik.
Delicately applying Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, the drama develops into a profound and haunting meditation on the mysteries of human motivation. It is also a sad love story of sorts, the older scientist seeking, and then feeling betrayed by, a substitute son.
Michael Blakemore's superb production is beautifully attentive to the play's recurring rhythms, as this trio endlessly re-enacts that momentous 1941 encounter. A demanding and richly rewarding evening.
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo shot dead at war memorial
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
FCKH8: Provocative anti-sexism video showing young girls swearing reinstated by YouTube
Diwali: What is the festival of lights – and how is it celebrated around the world?
Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
£70 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Group: Learning Mentors needed in Green...
£7200 - £36000 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: TEACHING ASSISTANTS NEEDED FOR PLYMOU...
£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...