Review | Copenhagen at The Spring Arts Centre, Havant: 'Sarah Ash gives a masterclass in acting'
Michael Frayn’s 1998 play, based on the relationship between physicists Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, is a brave choice for any local company; the text is dense, assumes a knowledge of the two principal characters and would surely be better appreciated by those with at least a smattering of quantum theory in their lives.
I raise my hand, now, to being one with no knowledge of or interest in that particular branch of the sciences.
Does that make a trip to see it valueless?
Far from it.
Bench Theatre’s production, directed with supreme economy by Jacquie Penrose, is worth seeing for its sheer theatricality and the three performances, in the broadest terms, are admirable.
Sarah Ash as Bohr’s wife, Margrethe – an actress always easy to watch – gives a masterclass in acting, here, particularly in a scene towards the end of the first act in which Margrethe plays little, if no, part; all the character does is listen to the debate between Bohr and Heisenberg – and Ash does just that.
That might seem an easy acting-challenge to the uninitiated, but it’s not. The temptation is to Act (with a capital A); to stare, to raise an eyebrow, to huff and puff and React (with a capital R!)
Ash does none of these things – she just listens – and it’s a joy to see.
As her husband, Bohr, David Penrose, very unsurprisingly, paints the character in experienced broad strokes highlighted with tiny, intimate brush-marks.
As a pair, Ash and Penrose are among the area’s best, so their pairing is a no-brainer.
Steve Foden, as Heisenberg, captures the character’s tortured conscience nicely, but could learn a lesson in acting-economy from the others in the cast; practically every line is accompanied by a huge gesture.
The vast majority of these are unnecessary; he has the character’s thought-processes nailed.
Perhaps a little more faith in his own acting ability – for he delivers the lines with thought and power and understanding – would get rid of these.
Jacquie Penrose’s economic direction is matched by her economic set – three chairs on a painted floor – and if anything is proof that all theatre needs to work is an empty space – this is it.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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