Hardly anyone writes drama on esoteric subjects in science, so it caused rare pleasure to view two plays based on physics that came to town. Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, a contemporary classic abroad, has had a decent Indian run in the production by Centre for Film and Drama (Bengaluru). Our city of physicists, however, did not turn out in the numbers I expected, missing the chance to relish on stage not only the history of the Bohr–Heisenberg relationship but also theatre that stimulates entirely through ideas and dialogue.

Frayn’s scrupulously researched text imagines what happened at the 1941 meeting between Bohr, the former supervisor, who identified uranium-235 as responsible for nuclear fission, and Heisenberg, his former assistant, who led the Nazi quest for the atom bomb. Frayn gives the latter the benefit of doubt, attributing to him a certain idealism that historians may dispute. More importantly, Frayn raises before us the ethics of science and what one should do when one knows the dangers of a project, as well as in wartime. Prakash Belawadi directs faithfully, except for the anachronism of Mrs Bohr wearing a much shorter skirt than photos show her in. Siri Ravikumar and Nakul Bhalla enact her and Heisenberg more authentically than Belawadi as Bohr, his thick accent contradicting theirs. Overlapping lines and fumbled cues interfered with our appreciation, too.

At the first SpectActing Festival, ECTA (New Jersey) presented Sudipta Bhawmik’s Cold Fusion in Bengali, which ostensibly deals with a researcher in India bent on proving the discredited Pons-Fleischmann experiment against his guide’s advice, but it suddenly mutates into a plea for sensitivity to gay love. The turn in direction needs some prior clue or preparation, otherwise it seems too contrived. Nevertheless, Bhawmik composes scenes and conversations naturally, though he should incorporate more English, especially after the international expert Dr Malhotra enters, as her speaking Bengali exclusively (even if she grew up in Kolkata) sounds decidedly odd. Pinaki Datta directs fluently and ensures that the cast’s Bengali never betrays an American twang. The acting exposes no amateurishness; on the contrary, Kanjaz Chakraberty (the troubled lead) and Soumendu Bhattacharya (the comical Dean) impress with complex characterizations.

(From The Telegraph, 14 January 2017)