Review: Copenhagen ****

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Lyceum, Sheffield

A seriously demanding work, Frayn’s Copenhagen has the shortest run of the three plays that make up the season, here is a production that repays its audience handsomely for the effort asked of them.

When a programme comes with a set of notes explaining Uncertainty Principle, Matrix Mechanics and Complimentarity the fear is that a degree in physics might be necessary to get the full benefit of such a production.

Somehow Frayn creates alchemy, taking the collective intelligence of an audience and spinning it into theatrical gold so that we end up believing we have grasped some of the most complicated theoretical physics explored in the last century. We haven’t, of course, but what we have grasped is that something very significant happened when Niels Bohr, a half Jewish Dane, met with his former protege Werner Heisenberg in Copenhagen in 1941.

A memory play set in a strange afterlife, the two men come together to discuss what happened at the meeting. The play explodes and becomes about responsibility of power, about the notion of memory and about the complex relationship between a teacher and a brilliant pupil.

Henry Goodman, as Bohr, is off the top of his game, but Geoffrey Streatfield is absolutely on it, and is mesmerising. The dark, slightly skewed set serves its purpose well, but this is all about the searingly good script.

To March 10.