Mini Reviews from London–THE PHYSICISTS

by Lynn on June 26, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Donmar Warehouse, London. Written by Friedrich Dűrrenmatt. In a new version by Jack Thorne. Directed by Josie Rourke. Designed by Robert Jones. Lighting by Hugh Vanstone. Sound by Emma Laxton. Music by Michael Bruce. Starring: John Ramm, Joanna Brookes, Justin Salinger, Sophie Thompson, Paul Bhattacharjee, Miranda Raison, John Heffernan.

Friedrich Dűrranmatt’s huge play about physics, responsibility to mankind, the possibility of world destruction and madness.

THE PHYSICISTS takes place in a sanitarium for the insane, or so it appears. Three patients believe they are famous physicists; one believes he is Sir Isaac Newton, one believes he’s Albert Einstein, and the last is sure he is Johann Wilhelm Mőbius. Nurses die at their hands. There is an investigation. The first Act seems farcical, with an extraordinary scene in which Mőbius looses control even for the likes of an insane person.

Act II is sobering in the reality of who these people really are. Those three physicists, or whoever they are, hold the world’s safety or destruction in their hands. Will they use it for good or not? Can they keep the secret they share? Are there outside forces bent on controlling them and the world.

Dűrranmatt wrote THE PHYSICISTS in 1961 when world destruction was a real possibility. His play is prescient, smart and terrifying. It should be done everywhere as a reminder of the power of imagination. This is Josie Rouke’s first performance as the new Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse, and it’s startling, compelling, unsettling and very moving.

She has an eye for the detail or sound that will unsettle you. And she has realized the play beautifully.

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