In Review

Theatre of the week: Copenhagen, Happy Days, and Amadigi

What the critics are saying about these three acclaimed openings

Michael Frayn’s “copperbottomed modern classic” Copenhagen is a shrewd choice for staging amid the ongoing Covid uncertainty, said Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph. It features just three “carefully spaced” actors, no singing or dancing – and “enough food for thought” to leave theatregoers well “stocked up if the shutters came down again”.

This “demanding but brilliant” drama is about a meeting between nuclear physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in the Nazi-occupied Danish capital in 1941, said Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail.

Theatre Royal Bath’s excellent revival (until 26 June, then touring to Southampton, Malvern and on) starts with lots of “mind-bending” chat about theoretical physics, but the production moves at “dizzying” speed and ultimately “achieves fission”, with its cast – Malcolm Sinclair, Philip Arditti and Haydn Gwynne – all on fizzing form.

Socially distant scenes at Theatre Royal Bath’s production of Copenhagen

Socially distant scenes at Theatre Royal Bath’s production of Copenhagen

Samuel Beckett’s 1961 play Happy Days is “the greatest show on Earth – and under it, too”, said Paul Taylor in The Independent. This “hilaro-devastating” masterpiece concerns a woman named Winnie who cannot move because she is “progressively entombed in scorched earth”: up to the waist at first, and later up to the neck.

It’s a sight, and a metaphor, that has “never lost its capacity to startle” – and proves as compelling as ever in this “beautiful, deeply considered” 60th-anniversary production from Trevor Nunn (Riverside Studios, London, until 25 July).

Irish actress Lisa Dwan is the “prima donna assoluta” of Beckettian interpretation. Here, in a static play that “demands everything from its central actor”, it is her “extraordinary vocal range” that gives the production its drama, said Arifa Akbar in The Guardian. Her “momentary plunges into hopelessness are heart-stopping”, though perhaps she “steers herself back to cheerfulness” a little too quickly.

Despite the challenges still facing the performing arts, the summer opera season is shaping up nicely, said Rebecca Franks in The Times. At Garsington, the director-designer Netia Jones has created a winningly inventive staging of Handel’s “magic” opera Amadigi (Garsington Opera until 24 July).

This “baroque rarity” is ideal for Covid times, as it has a small cast (only four main roles) and features lots of da capo arias, with little interaction between characters. Jones delivers plenty of visual spectacle, thanks to a design based around six large freestanding light-box pillars that move and rotate to create stunning patterns, grids and other effects. But her production remains fully focused on the “central human drama” involving the virtuous Oriana, the knight Amadigi, his rival Prince Dardano and the rejected sorceress Melissa.

All the leads impress, but countertenor Tim Mead, as the chain-smoking Dardano, provides “some of the most beautiful singing of the evening”.

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