"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Monday, March 09, 2015
Shakespeare Company at the Swan Theatre
have it within me to murder every last soul on the planet — should
I not be scared?”
Robert Oppenheimer, the genius behind the bomb that annihilated
cities and hastened the end of World War II.
Morton-Smith's ambitious piece brings to the stage this complex
character – his politics, his physics, his acadmeic career and his
private life. A little too much, perhaps. But it's a compelling
evening, with a huge cast peopling Oppenheimer's worlds in Angus
Jackson's energetic, eloquent staging.
ensemble is impeccable – young socialists raising funds for the war
in Spain, the scientists scribbling equations on the chalk-board
floor, the military watching the tests.
Heffernan is a revelation as Oppenheimer, with his pipe and his
shades, his epiphanies and his eureka moments. He treats us as his
students, lecturing us sternly but sympathetically. [There's
no dumbing down here, incidentally, Stoppard please note. The
German is not translated.] He is a private man, enthusiastic and
driven, only occasionally passionate in any extrovert way. Thomasin
Rand is excellent as his wife, Kitty, damaged, frustrated and a
failure as a parent. And the Serbers, friends and colleagues, are
credibly characterised by Jamie Wilkes and Sandy Foster. General
Groves, a military man through and through, the polar opposite of the
laid-back boffins, is brilliantly done by William Gaminara.
dramatic conflict between the army and the academics is effective,
but like other themes and tropes, tends to be overdone. Much of the
play seems familiar, too, perhaps deliberately so. The parable of the
chess-game grains of rice, the blind men and the elephant.
staging is simple – we have to imagine the ranch and almost
everything else. The bombs, though, do make an appearance – a boy
emerges from one to relate the horrific aftermath.
is cleverly used [as with Curious Incident we were glad to be in the
gods], and there's some great live music, including an interval
entertainment featuring, for
Kitty, that old Louis Jourdain number What's The Use Of Getting Sober
[When You're Gonna Get Drunk Again].
piece is not without its flaws. But the subject matter is so
important, and this production so intelligent, that it should be on
everyone's must-see list when it transfers to the Vaudeville for an