Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Farm Hall – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 11 Oct, 2023
Updated on: 11 Oct, 2023

The German scientists reflect on what they did and should have done under the Nazis in World War 2.

By Martin Giles

If you like thought-provoking drama don’t miss this week’s play at the Yvonne Arnaud.

Your appreciation will increase if you are curious about contemporary history and moral dilemma.

My only slight criticism was a failure to set the scene at the beginning of the play. It seems to be presumed that everyone has read the programme notes and knows the time, place and circumstances of the setting.

Let me help. It’s 1945. The war against Germany has been won. German scientists, mostly physicists, who had been working on nuclear fission had been brought to England and comfortably imprisoned in a country house in Cambridgeshire.

The house has been bugged by British intelligence so that information can be gleaned from the scientists’ conversations.

In the first act, they describe their war work. It emerges that two of the scientists were Nazi party members but they all display disillusionment with Hitler. A question arises whether the disillusionment, for some of them at least, set in during the war and caused some of them, one in particular, to intentionally thwart progress towards a German nuclear bomb.

News that such a weapon has been developed and dropped by the Americans on Japan comes as a shock and triggers an examination of conscience, with the benefit or curse of hindsight, and a moral dilemma: should they please their Allied captors by claiming to have prevented Hitler gaining such a weapon; swallow pride saying that German science was less advanced and risk the opprobrium of their still patriotic countrymen; or pretend their objective was to harness nuclear energy to drive an engine.

A confused Kurt Diebner (Julius D’Silva), a Nazi party member who willingly worked with the German military but now recognises Hitler’s criminality.

Other questions that arise are as old as mankind. How do we assess right and wrong? How do we know whether our judgement is being skewed by peer pressure and our culture? How much can any individual do? Should we blame ourselves for being fallible?

Clearly, this is not a play for those seeking some lighthearted entertainment, not that there is anything wrong with that. But for those who want their grey cells activated this well-acted and produced play (Theatre Royal Bath Productions) can be recommended.

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Responses to Stage Dragon: Farm Hall – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

  1. Barbara Ford Reply

    October 12, 2023 at 11:07 pm

    It was indeed excellent, well-written and well-acted too. All six scientists were well differentiated from each other, as to both personality and viewpoint.

    And for once, every word was audible, everyone kept their clothes on, nobody swore – astonishing!

    Editor’s comment: Thank you for sharing my appreciation. I do hope others go to see it. I am sure everyone can be relieved, not least the six excellent, middle-aged, male actors, that they remained suited throughout!

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