Today I listened to:
Copenhagen, a BBC Radio 3 adaptation of the play by Michael Frayne, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Greta Scacchi, and Simon Russell Beale
The play examines a contentious visit Werner Heisenberg made to Niels Bohr, his friend and former mentor, in German-occupied Denmark in 1941. Apparently, there has since been much debate about Heisenberg’s purpose in visiting Bohr — was he trying to warn Bohr about the German nuclear program or get him to inform on the Allies’ plans? — and the play teases out those motivations really beautifully, exploring the friendship between these two colleagues, the theoretical physics they were working on, and the consequences that work ultimately had on the world. I love literature about science (and listening to Benedict Cumberbatch talk about physics is one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever heard) and also stories about friendship, and this play addresses both wonderfully, all encompassed in a nuanced meditation on the nature of memory and morality.
The radio play is available for a few more days on the BBC website, and it’s definitely worth listen!
Incidentally, I love radio plays. I listened to a great adaptation of Boris Johnson’s The Unfortunates recently (starring, as it happens, Martin Freeman) and it reminded how much I love radio. One of my favorite things when I’m listening to the radio is the sounds people’s mouths make when they’re speaking. There’s something about the closeness of the microphone that highlights the intimate sense of the organs of speech, lips and tongue and breath, working together to make sound. I also just love a really well-delivered reading of a work, the way, in the right hands (and in the absence of the dreaded “poet voice”), any words become musical.