The Physicists

The Physicists is a witty, mysterious, black comedy, last performed at the Donmar Warehouse in 2012. From curtain up, the audience is thrust amidst a brutal murder investigation and then led on an astounding journey through the strange happenings at the private sanatorium, in a battle to discover the truth… Who is truly sane?

The play takes place in the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, in Les Cerisiers, an asylum for the mentally disturbed. Our story unfolds in the private drawing room which confines three physicists. One believes he is Isaac Newton, another believes he is Einstein and the third professes to be himself, but claims to receive frequent visits from King Solomon, who discloses the key ingredients of how to restore the world to its original state of goodness and perfection. From the outset, Doctor Zahnd appears calm and collected, but we soon discover this character knows more than she originally lets on and, before they know it, the physicists find they have dug themselves a hole out of which they cannot easily escape. The story unravels with a dark, malevolent secret, which later unveils the devastating consequences, should scientific evolution fall into the wrong hands.

Performed in the main house.

Temple Review – by Peter McGarry

Conflict lies at the heart of all drama and it comes in many forms.

This remarkable play looks at conflict in the context of conscience and how it decides or dictates a person’s decisions and deeds.

It fictionalises what could have taken place behind the scenes of a real event – the 2011  occupation by austerity protestors which actually caused the closure of St Paul’s Cathedral. But this is not so much about that flag-waving gesture as the mental turmoil inflicted on the clergy hierarchy indoors. As such it’s a daring and courageous piece of theatre for a local company to tackle.

The skill of this fine Loft production is its ability to examine what could be seen as a word-heavy script by maximising its potency as powerful theatre coupled with flashes of delightful humour.

There are no pat answers to the problems facing the Dean, the Bishop and the Canon Chancellor. Sue Moore’s subtle direction and a splendid set of actors enable us to understand their frustrations. Although the protest issue is not even concerned with religion, the unanswerable question revolves around which side deserves the true moral right of resolution.

The agony of the dilemma is revealed in another stunning performance by Phil Reynolds whose Dean readily admits his own lack of leadership flair but holds fast to his self-belief. Battering at his sensibility are Michael Barker’s strongly rebellious Canon Chancellor and Jeremy Heynes’s fluffy, old-school Bishop.

These characters are vividly brought to life, along with others inextricably caught in the crossfire and delivered in style by Kate Willis and Cathryn Bowler.

On the fringe of the clergy clashes, there is delicious work from Elizabeth Morris whose portrayal of an eager-to-please PA prompts memories of the great Joyce Grenfell.  And Richard Moore’s stately Chapter House set design stamps its authority with lasting effect.

We might never know what actually went on behind those closed clergy doors. But this interpretation offers very digestible food for thought.

Peter McGarry