THE PHYSICISTS
 


by Friedrich Dürrenmatt (translated by James Kirkup)

 

Directed by Judy Rake

 

 

The Maskers Theatre Company presented "The Physicists" at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton from Monday 24th and form Wednesday 26th to Saturday 29th January, 1972.

 

 

 Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Physicists is one of many physicist-centred dramas written in the 1950s and 1960s. At that time the potential that scientific innovation held was largely seen in the awesome destructive power of the atomic and hydrogen bombs. Science seemed to have outstripped man's ability to utilize it for the betterment of humanity. The Cold War, the arms race, and policies of mutually assured destruction suggested that instead science was too easily being used for bad -- indeed, literally world-threatening -- ends. Man could not be trusted with the knowledge that physicists were able to discover.
       Dürrenmatt's physicists take one of the few options available to them to keep the knowledge they have from falling into hands ill-prepared to do what is best with it: they get themselves locked up in a mental institution.
       The Physicists begins with a murder. A patient has murdered a nurse at the sanatorium. Because he is believed to be insane the criminal investigation is a largely superficial one. But the inspector does note his annoyance: three months earlier another patient had murdered another nurse.
       Three physicists live together in the wing. One believes he is Einstein, one believes he is Newton (but occasionally tells people that he is in fact Einstein, though "in fact he really believes he is Newton"), and one understands that he is Johann Wilhelm Möbius but believes King Solomon talks to him. In fact, however, the three physicists are all sane.
       Möbius feigns insanity because he discovered the "Unitary Theory of Elementary Particles". And he doesn't feel mankind is ready for the consequences:

The result is -- devastating. New and inconceivable forces would be unleashed, making possible a technical advance that would transcend the wildest flights of fantasy if my findings were to fall into the hands of mankind.

       The men who pretend to be Einstein and Newton are physicists in the employ of intelligence services, representing the Western and Eastern powers of Cold War times, sent there to get Möbius' great discovery.
       The murders of the nurses were necessary, because each grew too convinced that the patients were, in fact, sane. At the end of the first act Möbius finds himself with the same dilemma and sees murder as the only way to protect his secret.
       Things are further complicated, in the form of the founder of the sanatorium, Fräulein Doktor Mathilde von Zahnd, who is the only one who appears truly mentally unstable. She too knows more than she originally let on, and before they know it the physicists find they have dug themselves a hole out of which they can not easily escape.

       Dürrenmatt's comedy is very clever, and the situation he puts his characters in an ingenious and amusing one. The moral dilemma of the modern scientist no longer excites quite as much as it did at the height of the Cold War, but it is still a very effective play.

 

 

CAST

 

 

Irene Straub

Angela Dean

Police Inspector Richard Voss

Graham Buchanan

Marta Boll, the matron

Ann Pennington-Legh

Blocher, a police photographer

Peter White

Guhi, a police stenographer

David Bartlett

Police doctor

Geoffrey Wharam

Policeman

Ronald Avery

Herbert Georg Beutler (Newton), a patient

Peter Neve

Fräulein Doktor Mathilde von Zahnd, alientist

Joy Steele

Ernst Heinrich Ernesti (Einstein), a patient

Kenneth Spencer

Frau Lina Rose

Betty Riggs

Oskar Rose, her husband, a missionary

Alan Newell

Adolf - Friedrich    )

Wilfried - Kaspar   ) their sons

Jorg - Lukas           )

Paul Cole

Philip Manns

Graham Barnes

Johann Wilhelm Möbius, a patient

David Pike

Monika Stettler, a nurse

Molly Manns

Uwe Sievers, chief male attendant

Michael Shailer

McArthur, male attendant

David Dudley

Murillo, male attendant

John Greenhouse

 

 

For the Maskers

 

 

Directed by

Judy Rake

Stage Manager

Keith Hooper

Assistant Stage Manager

Ron Tillyer

Production Assistants

Avril Woodward, Angela Stephens

Artistic coordinator

Ray Green

Wardrobe Mistress

Jo Bartlett

Lighting Design

Derek Jones

Lighting

Ivan White

Sound.

W.J.Arno1d, Geoff Grandy

Photographs

Serena Brown

Publicity

John Carrington