Copenhagen: When Science and Story Collide

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Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch (Photo credit: honeyfitz)

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of listening to the adaptation of Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen on BBC Radio 3.

Here’s the summary/description from the BBC:

“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, part of a joint Radio 3 and Radio 4 series of three Michael Frayn dramas for radio – including new adaptations of his novels, ‘Skios’ and ‘Headlong’.

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. Two old friends, now on opposing sides, who between them have the ability to change the course of history.

But why has Heisenberg – Bohr’s former protégé – come to Copenhagen?

Michael Frayn’s Tony award-winning play imagines the three characters re-drafting the events of 1941 in an attempt to make sense of them. A powerful exploration of the uncertainties of human memory and motivation.”

I found this production so fascinating! (And no, not just because it was two hours of listening to Cumberbatch’s voice.) The story is a swirl of science and interpersonal relationships. It touches on strong emotions but never gets heavy-handed. It is both minimalist and vivid. And my favorite part: the structure/writing, which at first is disconcerting, evolves into a form or example of the very subject matter Bohrs and Heisenberg tangle with throughout the play! *kabooom* There goes my writer brain. I LOVE that kind of meta, self-referential literary trickery.

If, like me, you enjoy when science and story collide (ha), you might want to give this production a listen. I highly recommend it.

You can listen to Copenhagen at BBC Radio 3. (Be warned: how long that link will be active, I don’t know.)


2 thoughts on “Copenhagen: When Science and Story Collide

    Cindy Lacey said:
    January 14, 2013 at 10:53 am

    They usually keep them on for 7 days. Word is that there will be a CD release sometime in the future. I feel this play is made for radio. I’ve tried to watch it in the theatre but the visuals were too distracting.

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      January 14, 2013 at 11:14 am

      Thanks for the info, Cindy! Especially about the CD release. What were the visuals like on stage?

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