Daily Mail

Farm Hall (Jermyn Street Theatre)

Verdict: Explosive atomic fallout



THE year is 1945. Six nuclear scientists tasked with producing an atomic bomb for the Nazis have been spirited out of Germany and detained in shabby quarters within a stately home, Farm Hall.

Bugged by the Secret Service, bored and claustroph­obic, these brilliant minds are reduced to rehearsing Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit — and none has the talent to amuse.

They can’t talk serious science. The chalk scribbles on a blackboard of molecules under pressure turn out to be an effort to work out how bubbles are put into champagne.

In Katherine Moar’s quietly riveting debut — partly inspired by transcript­s of covertly recorded conversati­ons — the clashing personalit­ies and moral positions of the scientists are skilfully establishe­d.

Highly- competitiv­e, they squabble like schoolboys. Weizsacher (Daniel Boyd), the son of a diplomat, has charmed the absent landlord into giving them a piano. David Yelland’s Nobel prize-winner Von Laue would have preferred Monopoly. Though he would probably not have played with Diebner ( Julius D’Silva), a pompous, humourless Nazi.

Fellow Party member Bagge (Archie Backhouse) is indulged as he’s the cheery son of a locksmith and the student of Nobel Prize-winning, unreadable Heisenberg (Alan Cox). Warm, wise Hahn (Forbes Masson) presides. He is the genius who discovered nuclear fission, the physics behind the atomic bomb. Which is the play’s catalyst.

When a radio broadcast reports that the Americans have dropped an atomic bomb on Japan, the Germans are forced to question why their science failed where the U.S. succeeded. And a tearful Hahn feels personally responsibl­e for the deaths of thousands.

Fascinatin­g stuff: the unforeseen implicatio­ns of scientific discovery come under intense scrutiny by a writer to watch.

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