Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Drama with the appliance of Science

Danish dilemma: Len Schofield and Alison Daly play Niels and Magrethe Bohr in the SAT production of Copenhagen with Ian Cornock (Werner Heisenberg) sitting unobtrusively in the background. 


Sutton Arts Theatre, Sutton Coldfield


IT was a remarkably poor house by SAT standards, even before the interval. Afterwards, it was plain that about a dozen patrons had decided that they could cope no longer – which was understandable, because even playwright Michael Frayn would possibly agree that his extraordinarily wordy opus would struggle to come under the heading of Entertainment. 

Nevertheless, the very fact of its remorseless refusal to offer any suggestion of a lightness of touch, any relief from the often ferocious nature of its scientific conversations – and, indeed, any action – makes the achievement of director Patrick Richmond-Ward and his company of three in getting so assuredly to grips with it all the more worthy of salutation. 

No, it is not a play intended to send the patrons home rejoicing. It is the story of two atomic physicists, their work and the relationship it produced. It is a theme that is not to be messed about with. It makes no allowances for relief. You have to take it on its own terms. 

Do that, however, and you will surrender to the sheer  weight of scientific arguments and moral decisions. The noise of the arguments, too: from time to time, the confrontations achieve a high-decibel dynamic, nose-to-nose, no quarter given. 


It all happens against a white background, on a set consisting of a white aluminum table, a few white aluminum chairs and a skeletal white tree. There is nothing, that is, to take your mind off the words. Words, for instance, like waves, particles, causality and partial universality; words that give an inkling of what makes nuclear fission happen – or, indeed, not happen. 

It is a special experience, just to watch the way in which Len Schofield and Ian Cornock throw science into the mix in their roles as two German physicists – and give every impression that they actually know what they are talking about. They play, respectively, Niels Bohr, who was a Jew, and Werner Heisenberg – two men who did actually work together for a few years before the Second World War. 

Alison Daly is Magrethe Bohr, wife of the older man; intermittently injecting the human touch into the intensity of conversations that otherwise tend to spark and resound without her. All praise for the way in which she retains the concentration that enables her to chip in unfailingly at the right time, when it would be entirely understandable if her thoughts were to wander elsewhere. 

Len Schofield and Ian Cornock have far larger roles. Indeed, no exaggeration is involved in saying that each man produces a tour do force in a veritable minefield of verbiage which, apart from anything else, finds them referring unerringly and often very rapidly to nearly three dozen scientists who were contemporaries of Bohr and Heisenberg. These are remarkable performances in a challenging piece of theatre. To 6-11-10..

John Slim

Box Office:   0121 355 5355   

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