COPENHAGEN gives Sheffield another taste of the directing talents of David Grindley next week.
Last year his stunning delivery of World War One story Journey’s End touched thousands at the Lyceum.
His take on Michael Frayn classic Copenhagen will stir more emotions in the same space, again centred on man’s ability to wipe out other men but with the focus on two eminent scientists whose work went far beyond trench warfare.
Based on real events, Copenhagen delves into the ethical dilemma and mistrust surrounding the brains behind the first atomic bomb and people caught between intellect and the heart.
“The notion that scientists are like monks in their labs and they’ve got their emotions in check and all very controlled is ridiculous,” he says.
“These men are emotional and expressive because, particularly at the top level, they believe they are absolutely right and if somebody comes in and challenges them they’re going to roll their sleeves up and have intellectual fisty-cuffs.
“What these guys together created in three years was as evolutionary as Einstein. The sense of being on the verge of discovery on almost a daily basis, wrestling with it, the door’s locked and suddenly it bursts open and you’re into a new vista, the world beginning to make more sense than before, must be extraordinary and thrilling.
“But as they got resources to pursue their research further there’s that conflict because what you’re making work is a nuclear bomb.”
David says the key conundrum in the play is that the younger scientist has been ostracised by the scientific community and had to explain to the world why he stayed in Germany, working on Hitler’s bombs programme.
“The war had ended the point at which their weapon was ready. The weapon was then taken from them and dropped on the Japanese. They didn’t have the same beef with the Japanese and that affected a lot of them because, as Hiesenberg argues ‘If we scientists got together we could stop this in its tracks because by the time you have success it is out of your hands’.
“I like those situations where the stakes are very high and it matters; the event you’re seeing on stage really matters.
“In Journeys End if somebody goes out that door you don’t know if they’re coming back again.
“Similarly, if this meeting had gone a different way who knows what would have happened.”
That said, some questions remain unanswered by the piece, largely dictated by historical accounts.
“You’re as uncertain about what happened at the end of the play as you are at the beginning,” David says, but in an encouraging way.
“What you do know and are gripped by is the fact this meeting, in a room, could have had dramatic consequences for the rest of the world. It’s almost as if they are in purgatory, having to permanently circle an issue that has not been resolved and they won’t be released unless they resolve it, but that’s never going to happen.
“And at the end of the day, as a director, it’s about the talent you work with and the three actors we have are amazing.”.