First broadcast in January 2013, Simon Russell Beale was recently nominated for a BBC Audio Drama Award for his portrayal of Neils Bohr in Emma Harding’s radio adaption of the play.
Simon Russell Beale has been nominated for Best Actor in an Audio Drama for his portrayal of Neils Bohr in last year’s BBC Radio 3 adaption of Copenhagen. The winners of the BBC Audio Drama Awards will be announced at a ceremony in the BBC Radio Theatre in London on Sunday 26th January.
Copenhagen was adapted and directed by Emma Harding and was broadcast in January 2013. Benedict Cumberbatch played Werner Heisenberg and Greta Scacchi played Bohr’s wife Margrethe in the 90 minute audio version of Michael Frayn’s classic play.
Beale is up against Lee Ross and Joseph Millson in the Best Actor category, which is being judged by journalist and presenter Libby Purves, actor and writer Ruth Jones and gossip columnist Baz Bamigboye.
The year 2013 has been a good one for the science-in-theatre genre with numerous performances of established classics staged throughout the world as well as new plays appearing on the scene.
The year began with the final few performances of Lucy Prebble’s The Effect at The National Theatre in London. The complexities of love amid a neuropharmacology clinical trial attracted both sell-out audiences and a clutch of awards and nominations for the Headlong/NT team.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s new version of Brecht’s A Life of Galileo in the Swan Theatre brought audiences to Stratford-Upon-Avon to enjoy a lively and musical production with set-design by Tom Scutt.
Several new plays portraying the history of science opened throughout the year. Operation Epsilon by Alan Brody premiered in Boston USA, dealing with the post-war detention of German nuclear scientists and offering an intriguing postscript to Michael Frayn’s mighty Copenhagen. STELLA, a new play by Sibohan Nicholas featuring portrayals of 18th Century astronomers Caroline and William Herschel, opened in Brighton in May and went on to tour small venues in the UK and Ireland throughout the summer.
A highlight of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August was Adura Onashile’s portrayal of Henrietta Lacks in her one-woman show HeLa. Onashile’s performance brought the story of Lacks treatment in the 1950s and the prolifically multiplying cell line that has lived on in the decades since her death to ever-wider audiences. The wartime code-breaking endeavors of Alan Turing and his colleagues at Bletchley Park were also brought to life at the Edinburgh Festival in Idle Motion’s immensely imaginative That is All You Need to Know.
As ever, Frayn’s Copenhagen and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia proved popular choices for professional and amateur theatre companies throughout the world. In Hong Kong there was a reading of Copenhagen in Mandarin in October and as well as a revival of a production given by Nobel laureates in Gothenburg in December. The appeal of Arcadia was confirmed this year when it was voted fourth in a list of the Britain’s favorite plays.
There are promising events in store for 2014 with the world premiere of Dava Sobel’s play about Copernicus And the Sun Stood Still set for production in Denver in April. With new tours of STELLA, Hanging Hooke and A Life of Galileo on the cards in the UK as well as a new play about neuroscience on the way from Constellations playwright Nick Payne, 2014 is looking bright for science-in-theatre.
Two science-in-theatre classics featured in the National Theatre’s 50th Anniversary evening of celebration on 2nd November. Scenes from Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen were revived as part of the gala event broadcast live from the NT’s Olivier Theatre.
Actor Roger Allam, who presented Michael Frayn with a special Laurence Olivier Award in April this year, performed the speech from the close of Copenhagen in which Heisenberg recalls an encounter with an SS soldier in Bavaria at the end of the Second World War.
Rory Kinnear played pompous literary scholar Bernard Nightingale in an excerpt from Act II of Arcadia.
Both plays were first produced by the National Theatre. Arcadia opened in the Lyttelton Theatre on 13th April 1993, directed Trevor Nunn with Bill Nighy in the role of Bernard. Copenhagen premiered in the Cottesloe Theatre in 1998, directed by Michael Blakemore.
A great poet is always timely. A great philosopher is an urgent need. There’s no rush for Isaac Newton. We were quite happy with Aristotle’s cosmos. Personally, I preferred it. Fifty-five crystal spheres geared to God’s crankshaft is my idea of a satisfying universe.
Bernard Nightingale provokes Valentine. Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, Act II Scene 1
Two new science-in-theatre productions have been nominated for British theatre’s prestigious Olivier Awards. Nick Payne’s Constellations is nominated in the Best New Play category as well as receiving nominations for Best Lighting Design and Sound Design for Lee Curran and David McSeveney respectively. Rafe Spall received a Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of a beekeeper opposite Sally Hawkins’ theoretical physicist.
Two performers in the Headlong/National Theatre production of Lucy Prebble’s The Effect have also been nominated. Billie Piper, who played drug trial participant Connie, is up for Best Actress. Anastasia Hille is nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for portraying one of the doctors running the trial.
The winners of the Olivier Awards will be announced at a ceremony at the Royal Opera House on 28th April 2013. Playwright Michael Frayn will also receive a special award for outstanding contributions to theatre. Frayn’s many plays include the Tony Award winning Copenhagen (1998) which considers the 1941 meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg and remains one of the best-known and influential science-in-theatre plays.
Olivier Award Nominations Announced 26 March 2013
Best Actor Rafe Spall – Constellations
Best Actress Billie Piper – The Effect
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Anastasia Hille – The Effect
MasterCard Best New Play Constellations
White Light Award for Best Lighting Design Lee Curran – Constellations
Best Sound Design David McSeveney – Constellations
Special Award Michael Frayn
Heisenberg: It’s like a pre-war house party – one of those house parties in a play, that’s cut off from any contact with the outside world, where you know the guests have all been invited for some secret sinister purpose.
Copenhagen Act One, Michael Frayn, 1998
In July 1945 the Allied Forces imprisoned ten scientists associated with the German wartime nuclear programme in an English country house near Cambridge. For nearly six months the conversations between the captives were secretly recorded in an attempt to determine how close the Nazis came to developing a nuclear weapon.
The transcripts from Farm Hall were declassified in 1992, providing valuable source material for historians and writers intrigued by what happened there. The Farm Hall operation is depicted in Adam Ganz’s 2010 radio play Nuclear Reactions and provided important background material for Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen.
Operation Epsilon is a new stage play by Alan Brody depicting the internment at Farm Hall. It premiered at Central Square Theatre in Cambridge, MA, USA on 7th March 2013, produced by The Nora Theatre Company under the direction of Andy Sandberg. The company works with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop plays representing science in theatre.
The recordings made at Farm Hall were inconclusive about the true state of the Nazi nuclear programme. However, the reactions of the scientists to the news of the bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945 were enlightening, with Otto Hahn initially said to have considered suicide. Although the events at Farm Hall have been examined before, there seems to be sufficient dramatic material available to sustain new writing, making Brody’s new play an intriguing prospect.
Operation Epsilon runs at the Central Square Theatre in Cambridge, MA, USA until 28 April 2013.
Members of Abingdon’s Studio Theatre Club will be giving a reading of Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen as part of ScienceOxfordLive on 13th March. The event in the Amey Theatre at Abingdon School will be introduced by Prof. Frank Close and apparently will also feature live ‘hands-on particle physics demonstrations.’
Tickets for the dramatic reading at 7.30pm on Wednesday 13th March cost £5.
Two new interviews are available in anticipation of Sunday’s broadcast of Michael Frayn’s ‘Copenhagen at 8.30pm on Radio 3, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
Frayn was interviewed by Michael Sweet on Radio 3’s Night Waves earlier this week. The pair discussed the science behind ‘Copenhagen’ as well as the radio version of Frayn’s book ‘Skios’. Speculating on why Heisenberg may have visited Bohr in 1941, Frayn suggested that “one understands oneself through one’s relations with other people.” He commented that perhaps Heisenberg wanted to “see the reflection of himself in Bohr to understand himself better.”
In another interview, the Radio Times spoke with the cast of ‘Copenhagen’ during a break in the recording of of the play. Simon Russell Beale, who plays Bohr, revealed that he is ‘hopeless at the page-turning’. Beale is no stranger to radio scripts but it seems the lengthy speeches in ‘Copenhagen’ were enough to give even this highly accomplished actor a sleepless night.
BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting a new version of Michael Frayn ‘s ‘Copenhagen’ this January. Benedict Cumberbatch will play Werner Heisenberg and Simon Russell-Beale will play Niels Bohr in the new radio adaption, which is directed by Emma Harding. Greta Scacchi will play Bohr’s wife Margrethe.
Earlier in the year Prof. Jim Al-Khalili indicated on Twitter that he helped Cumberbatch prepare for the part with a special discussion on theoretical physics.
The new 90 minute ‘Copenhagen’ will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 at 8.30pm on Sunday 13 January 2013.
Updated 10 January 2013:
Director Emma Harding has written a post at the Radio 3 Blog about inviting Jim Al-Khalili to the read-throughs of ‘Copenhagen’ and her interpretation of the play.