Words by Juliet Lochrin
I learnt more about science from this play than I did from my entire schooling career.
The sad part is that I’m not even entirely joking. The actors conveyed Michael Frayn’s monologue-heavy dialogue about quantum mechanics in such a way that it not only never got boring, but it also made sense to the audience. And that’s saying something – I dropped science in year 10 to follow my love of the arts and humanities and still this play made sense to me.
Overall, the acting was effortless and natural, with just the right balance of characterisation necessary for a theatrical production. Thomas Hanaee (as Werner Heisenberg), Patrick Sunderland (as Niels Bohr), and Dani Maher (as Margrethe Bohr) did a stellar job.
Hanaee and Sunderland were animated, made intelligent choices and physically embodied their characters in a way that was convincing and engaging. Their chemistry was dynamic on-stage and interesting to watch (with lowkey homoerotic vibes?). The only thing I would fault – in good humour, of course – was that Hanaee didn’t seem to have much experience smoking a cigarette.
Maher was disarmingly authentic and held her ground in balancing out her fast-talking co-stars. In such a dramatic play about the ethical implications of the nuclear bomb, she found moments to exhibit impeccable comedic timing, and for this she can be applauded. A special shout-out is also owed to Sophie Morrissey for nailing the foreboding presence of her unspeaking role.
On another note, the sound design by Henry Hulme was exquisite with its extra-reverberated rendition of Beethoven’s “Für Elise”, and effects of atoms popping and bombs dropping. Hulme not only created a sense of aural unity throughout the play but also presented a sonic landscape that reflected the thematic ‘uncertainty’ and ‘echoing’ of the play itself that formed the backbone of the production.
Moreover, there was an effective use of silence. This is – I think – one of the defining indicators of a great performance and production. If you can command the audience when ‘nothing’ is happening, you’ve got us engaged and that’s the art of entertainment. The balance of sound and silence intelligently reflected the thematic concept of ‘silence’ throughout the play. This exploration also extended to the time preceding the performance and during the intermission, the quietness was eerie and the ‘break’ in communication further contributed to the atmosphere of the whole night. Well done.
The lighting design by Lincoln Gidney effectively complimented the action on stage and the sound design. At times, it was dramatic and had an alienating effect on the characters; at others, it was warm and inclusive. The set and costume design by Declan Coyle and Nina Mountford, respectively, was not only intimate and creatively designed, but also created a sense of both liminality and timeliness essential to the piece.
Summarily, all aspects of production were expertly tailored to the emotional subtext of the script and recurred throughout to unify the piece across all creative elements. It was quite possibly the tightest ensemble I have seen from SUDS this year, and also some of Director Caitlin Williams’ best work. Symbolism, eat your heart out.
The production was meticulously thought-out and so many elements were considered and for this Williams deserves a congratulations. What a fantastic slot 12 to end the year – I evidently only have good things to say.
“Copenhagen” will be performed in The Cellar Theatre at The University of Sydney for the next two weeks and I implore you all to go and see it.