Monday, April 22

Farm Hall – Jermyn Street Theatre

“Did you try to build a bomb? On some mornings yes, and on others, no” – Heisenberg

6th August 1945, Hiroshima was completely devastated. History witnessed the detonation of an atomic bomb by the United States. Human’s scientific capabilities and moral consciousness failed to comply with ethical quandaries. In a different part of the world, six of Germany’s prominent scientists are detained in England; the Uranverein known as the ‘Uranium Club’. Whereas the Germans were very close at possessing atomic power in a time were the Führer favoured conventional weapons, they are shocked by the news “The Americans have built an atom bomb. They have dropped it on Japan”- HAHN. An outstanding piece that brilliantly showcased the moments and discussions that followed the scourge.

Based on declassified and published archive of The Farm Hall Transcripts, unbeknownst recordings of conversations during the seven months of the detainment, Katherine Moar made her debut alongside Stephen Unwin, an award-winning British theatre and opera director, director of Farm Hall. Conversations around nuclear technology, the nature of scientific discoveries, and moral conflicts were put on the table among the scientists, Heisenberg (Alan Cox), Hahn (Forbes Masson), Bagge (Archie Backhouse), Weizsäcker (Daniel Boyd), Diebner (Julius D’Silva) and Von Laue (David Yelland).

Photo: Alex Brenner

“History is written by the victors”. Surely. In other terms, the production successfully presented a side of History; one that is burdened with baggage, one that ended up winning Nobel Prizes having names etched in the annals of peacemakers, names that nearly had an atomic bomb. The drama clearly criticizes the absurdity of war nourished by not only military but scientists as well. The actors astoundingly conveyed these emotions of boredom, indifference, uprightness, righteousness and fear. What does it mean to have contributed to the discovery of nuclear fission? How is History going to make use of these scientific technologies? What is our positionality in relation to these discoveries? What about the people? Ironically, the people are mentioned once in a 90-minute length piece imparting the warlords’ indifference to the people. 

The drama concludes on a poignant note. At the end, we were an audience judging, in 2023, History’s written facts. Human discoveries and applications are ongoing discussions that are taking place as you read this. At the end, we will never know if the project was a stage of passive resistance for Heisenberg, or a mean to survive, find work, advance science for others… However, as the French Renaissance writer famously stated, “science without conscience is the soul’s perdition”.

Farm Hall continues until 8th April, https://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/show/farm-hall/

Reviewer: Marita Matar

Reviewed: 14th March 2023

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

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