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Farm Hall | Yvonne Arnaud

The year is 1945. Hitler is dead, but the war persists in the Pacific. The Allied forces have captured 6 German physicists, including 3 Nobel Laureates, and detained them in the British countryside, far away from the eyes of the world. Their life in captivity, whilst seemingly peaceful as they enjoy reading plays and a gifted broken piano, pushes them to reflect on the life they left behind in their homeland.

The months go by and the men find themselves increasingly concerned with the news of the war. Suddenly, they receive the tragic news that the Americans had succeeded where the Germans had previously failed. They had built an atomic bomb and used it against Japan, causing devastation and claiming the lives of thousands. This fascinating thriller brings to life the true story of these physicists as they struggle to cope with the reality of their contribution to the field.

The story is centred around a drawing room, complete with decrepit mismatched wallpapers and very little in the way of furniture, illustrating the atmosphere of a country home with great subtlety. Having very little in the way of common traits, the men struggle with confinement, often leading to moments of awkward comedy as they bicker over the menial tasks they have grown so unaccustomed to. Nonetheless, the solitude forces the men to reflect on their time in Germany and their contributions to the Nazi regime. Whilst some refuse to acknowledge responsibility in Germany’s advancement in the war, others overtly boast their acts of passive resistance to Hitler’s regime, but all of them had a part to play in the grand scheme of the action.

Katherine Moar’s script, based on the real-life recordings collected from Farm Hall, masterfully, yet elegantly, captures each character’s intentions as they struggle to come to terms with the consequences of their knowledge. The dialogue provides the audience with just enough technical detail for the scenes to carry their intended meanings, yet not so much that it becomes overwhelming for an audience whose understanding of nuclear physics may be limited. Further, the skilful eloquence of its actors is commendable, as their achievement is no easy feat. 

Alan Cox plays the role of Heisenberg, the leader of the group. Daniel Boyd takes on the role of Weizsäker, a man whose family held close ties to the Third Reich and its political members. William Chubb is Von Laue, an active participant in the objection of the Nazi regime. George Jones plays Bagge, a deeply regretful member of the Nazi party, whilst Julius D’Silvabrings to life Diebner who unashamedly admits to supporting the oppressive regime. Lastly, Forbes Masson takes on the role of Hahn, the man responsible for the discovery of nuclear fission, the tool necessary for the conception of the atomic bomb.

As the men receive the news of the bomb dropping in Japan, each character’s personality resurfaces as they are faced with the reality of their actions, which brings with it a drastic shift in tone. Whilst some are confused with the idea that the Americans could have succeeded where they had previously failed, others found themselves riddled with insurmountable and unbearable guilt. The moral compass of the men is therefore exposed to the audience as they watch with mixed feelings of anticipation and fear as the inevitable end draws nearer.

‘Farm Hall’ is sure to become a classic play due to its masterful handling of nuances between the comedic and terrifying aspects of the story. Overall, it seems as though the stripped back decor and elegant script plays to this production’s advantage as its presentation is nothing short of thrilling.

Fram Hall plays at the Yvonne Arnaud theatre until the 14th October. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review


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