Events & Activities

Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen DRAMA HISTORICAL ENGLISH 2 HRS 20 MINS

13th May 2016
14th May 2016
7:30 PM on 13th May and 3:30 and 7:30 on 14th May

Ranga Shankara,
36/2 8th Cross II Phase, JP Nagar, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560078, India

DIRECTORPrakash Belawadi
ARTISTSPrakash Belawadi, Siri Ravikumar, Nakul Bhalla
Michael Frayn’sCopenhagen (1988) relies on the historical fact of a meeting between physicists Niels Bohr (Danish half-Jew) and Werner Heisenberg (German) in Copenhagen in September 1941, at the height of Nazi power, as it advanced into Russia and only three months before America entered the war. It speculates on a conversation that possibly had profound implications for the question – who would make the atom bomb first: the Nazis or the Allied forces. The Germans feel the urgency because they know the allies are working on it.

Frayn’s real interest is to use the fuzzy records of physics and politics to invoke serious ethical questions of human intent and agency.

The play opens to an abstract time-space setting when all the three characters – Bohr, his wife Margarethe and Heisenberg – are dead. Crucially and controversially, the play wonders whether Heisenberg actually knew what it would take to make the bomb, but went slow on it because he did not want to arm Hitler with such a weapon. In 1956, Robert Jungk (Brighter Than a Thousand Suns) published the extract from a letter in which Heisenberg seemed to be claiming the moral high ground. It made the real life Bohr angry, as surely as it outraged scientists and historians in the Allied world.

This historical play keeps returning to the question why Heisenberg came to Copenhagen in 1941:
The play also reveals something that was not known before (to Friedrich Drrenmatt, for instance, when he wroteThe Physicists): At Farm Hall, where the team of German nuclear scientists were kept under house arrest by the British, when they got news of the the Hiroshima bomb on their radio, their shocked and hushed conversation was secretly recorded. The English translation of the German transcripts were released only in 1992 : Heisenberg tells Otto Hahn
(who discovered fission), after their Nazi coordinator has retired to sob in his room, ”I always knew it could be done with 235 with fast neutrons.”

Did Heisenberg really know? Frayn suggests he did, but that is not his own central question. ”The great challenge facing the storyteller and the historian alike is to get inside people’s heads, to stand where they stood and see the world as they saw it, to make some informed estimate of their motives and intentions – and this is precisely where recorded and recordable history cannot reach.”

This event will be held at Ranga shankara.