Benedict Cumberbatch, Greta Scacchi and Simon Russell Beale star in Michael Frayn's award-winning play about the controversial 1941 meeting between physicists Bohr and Heisenberg. Copenhagen, Autumn 1941.
The two presiding geniuses of quantum physics, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg meet for the first time since the breakout of war. Danish physicist Bohr and his wife, Margrethe, live in Nazi-occupied Denmark; their visitor, Heisenberg, is German, the two old friends, now on opposing sides have between them the ability to change the course of history.
Frayn's Tony award-winning play imagines the three characters re-drafting the events of 1941 in an attempt to make sense of them. With Greta Scacchi as Margrethe Bohr, Simon Russell Beale as Niels Bohr and Benedict Cumberbatch as Werner Heisenberg. This new version of Copenhagen is adapted for radio and directed by Emma Harding.
©2013 AudioGO Ltd (P)2013 AudioGO Ltd
Copenhagen is an extreemly difficult play to do. not just because of its dense subject, but because it doesn't follow a narrative structure. There are none of the conventional markers that can signal to an actor when the critical passages and emotional beats are. That is what makes each adaptation interesting, as each actor will play their historical character with slightly different emphasis on different passages.
Unfortunatelly, none of the actors seem to be doing this hear. We know Cumberbatch can play the tortured genius extreemly well, but his enjoyability as an actor comes from his ability to give cerebral characters emotional depth. But here, his performance (along with the other actors) is uniformly at 50%.
If you read the play with a careful understanding of the history behind the events it is disecting, you will see that Frayn has strategically inserted moments of levity and moments of shock to punctuate what would otherwise be historical narration, which gives the play it's emotional core. There are times here when the characters should be laughing with eachother, and times when they should be almost at eachother's throats. But nothing of that emotional level occurs in this performance.
This is even more tragic, as this is the type of play that requires multuple listenings to follos, and an emotionally flat performance is the least enjoyably to listen to over and over. I would not recommend this version of this play.
I never quite understood the practice of reviewing a play immediately after finishing it; I think I need some more time to ruminate on this one. I didn't love the play, but it was still solid. The acting is phenomenal, though, particularly in the part of Mr. Cumberbatch. Very engaging, well motivated, and clear. It helped bring the play to life!
Copenhagen is about how WWII challenges the relationship and moral certainty of the two scientists at the heart of the story, each one on the opposing sides of the war and with destructive possibility of their work looming over them. The premise of the story is confined to two meetings between the physicists during and after the war. Their choices not only determine the future of their relationship but of entire mankind.
The writer cleverly uses the historical context and the moral dilemmas of the two men's work to heighten the stakes of the story. The writer does not shy away from having his characters discuss physics and math. Even if one does not fully understand their professional language, it helps to establish the intellectual authority of the characters and make them come to life.
The actors do an excellent job. Their performance reflect the intimate setting of the story and their delivery never becomes "theaterly".
The recording sounds as if conducted in the same settings as where the story took place so the acoustics help to make the performance more believable.
Unfortunately the brainy trait of story is not compensated for with something lighter. Not to trivialize the seriousness of their predicament but a few funny moments would have given the piece some high notes. Even in the darkest moments of a man, there is always something we can laugh about.
Overall it's a great play and worth the listen.
"Thought provoking play"
Very deep play well acted and food for thought makes you also ask questions about ethics and what our omissions or actions lead to
"Wonderful piece of Theater"
Wonderful performances that one can hear time and again without losing any interest.
Excellent combination of a scientific subject with touching repercussions for all the characters involved and on a larger scale for all of humanity.
Heisenberg is simply astonishing. His dilemma and life story are incredible.
One starts to listen at the audio book and time freezes.
Frayn has put on paper a masterpiece.
"What did they talk about?"
Yes. "Copenhagen" is both tightly focused and yet open in its conclusions - and because the story it tells was a key event in the history of the Second World War and beyond - mainly because nothing happened as a result.
It is not a play that depends on single moments.
He catches the seriousness and yet the oddity of the meeting between Bohr and Heisenberg.
What did they talk about?
This audio-play for three voices -- Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and Margrethe Heisenborg -- is tough but rewarding going. The two physicists circle round each other during Heisenberg’s 1941 visit to occupied Copenhagen, sometimes talking but, more often, talking about each other, with Margrethe as a troubled commentator. At stake is the Nazi’s project to build a nuclear bomb (with, had they known it, the Cold War that followed World War 2) and Frayn imagines the conversation, in the apparent absence of any record of what happened when they met. Ideas matter is the theme of this tense but always indirect play. From the title onwards, it is the indirection that marks out “Copenhagen” as unusual and remarkable drama.
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