Before going to Sheffied this past Thursday, I knew very little about Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen. Something about nuclear physics and the bomb. I quite like not knowing anything about a play, all part of discovering everything in the moment.
In the end, Copenhagen proved a superb play in a superb production. The play itself reminded me of Arcadia, with its visceral approach of ideas, science, morality & mortality. I think that Arcadia might be the best play ever written, so anything that comes close is a masterpiece.
You can call the production challenging, but that might miss the point. It was challenging, both because it presents something important and profound, but also because of the challenge of hanging on in a fabulous emotional and intellectual ride. Like skiing down a slope, a motif of the play itself.
I am tempted to call the production sparse, but that brings to mind something small and, well, drab. Three actors on stage for two and a half hours, with very few props, and this was as rich an experience as any I have had in the theatre. Henry Goodman, Barbara Flynn and Geoffrey Streatfeild were all brilliant, as good as each other, which is the way with the best performances.
If not all these pleasures were not enough, the play gave me the second entry in my Hamlet challenge: early in the play, Heisenberg, wanting to demostrate that the observer has an effect on the object of the objervation, says: “The whole appearance of Elsinore, you said, was changed by our knowing that Hamlet had lived there”. That kickstarts another motif throughout the play, where Elsinore is mentioned several times as the dark place of the soul. So there we are: we go from Copenhagen to Elsinore, and I would be very happy to spend more time in both.
For the first entry and explanation to the Hamlet challenge visit the Hamlet Challenge Entry No 1: Tis Pity She’s a Whore by Cheek by Jowl.
In the mean time, you don’t have much time to catch Copenhagen at the Lyceum in Sheffield. It only runs for 11 days and finishes tomorrow.