German Nuclear Scientists Gather on Stage for Operation Epsilon

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.