Copenhagen at Chapel off Chapel is a play about a meeting in 1941 between two of the most important physicists of the 20th Century.
Science was not my strong point in school, in fact I sat in the back row scratching my name…. there is probably “Zoe 4 David 4 Eva” still etched into a bench at St Clares College.
So it was with some trepidation that I attended a performance of Michael Frayn’s Tony Award winning play, Copenhagen, at Chapel off Chapel.
Copenhagen is a play about a meeting in 1941 between two of the most important physicists of the 20th Century. The conversation that occurred during this meeting ended their long friendship, and possibly altered the outcome of WW2.
The two scientists are Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. Niels is half Jewish, living in occupied Copenhagen. Werner is his pupil from the past who is now working (not enthusiastically) with the Nazi’s.
The visit has many layers and many questions are raised during the two and half hours of the play, I have to admit being on the edge of my seat for most of it… and not just because the seats in The Loft space at Chapel off Chapel are so uncomfortable.
The acting was strong, with Tristan Lutze dominating the stage as Werner Heisenberg. Matthew Kenny as Bohr and Andrea McCannon as Margrethe Bohr were both strong and very convincing in their roles. When debate became heated I almost had the urge to try to mediate, it was so compelling.
It may be worth mentioning here that the whole play takes place within the lounge room of the Bohr’s, no fancy changes or costume shifts, and still mesmerizing.
I wanted to know what they had said to each other, what would happen to Niels, and to take in all the information about the war at that time as was mentioned or hinted at.
One of the scientific face-saving features for me was the programme that was supplied as we entered The Loft, this helpful booklet explained some of the terms that were used during the play and also what Quantum Physics actually is, in plain terms no less!
As the day after the performance dawned I became more aware of the parallels that were being drawn between the personal experiences of the characters and the two main theories developed by Bohr and Heisenberg.
These two theories were the Uncertainty principle and Complimentarity. The uncertainty principle is basically about how we are not able to measure everything about something at a particular time. Complimentarity is about how particles can behave as both particles and waves at the same time.
These two theories talked about within the play, and in fact the basic structure of the play and the discussions of a personal nature throughout are related to these two theories, about the choices that we make in life and the outcomes they may have, how people behave differently when not observed (there were many references to listening devices and people being followed).
Whether you like or know anything about, Physics, Science or atomic power, I would go along to this play, it is well worth it.
Copenhagen at Chapel off Chapel. 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran, VIC, 3181. Dates: March 5th – 28th