We take a look at what is being said about the UK premiere and 10th-anniversary revival of Alan Brody’s play.
WhatsOnStage: *** “The proliferation of characters makes it difficult to get a full handle on each one, and the scale of it feels bloated; like watching a West End production squeezed into a fringe space. But it’s an undoubtedly diverting couple of hours shining a light on a little-known aspect of the war effort (it seems pretty shameful the men were confined for so long after the end of the war).”
Theatre & Tonic: ***** “For me, Operation Epsilon was pretty faultless. The cast, the staging, the set, the lighting – I only hope this show can expand to an even bigger venue. The content discussed here is heavy at times but extremely important and to find out more about the science behind the bomb and the men behind the science was extremely compelling. Tension and suspense were built into the piece expertly and delivered expertly by every actor. I really hope there is a bright future for this production.”
The Arts Desk: *** “Billed as the “other side of the Oppenheimer story”, American playwright Alan Brody’s award-winning 2013 history play, Operation Epsilon, gets its British premiere at the Southwark Playhouse, and offers a solid, if pedestrian, account of how German nuclear scientists were influenced by political considerations during the Third Reich.”
The Reviews Hub: *** 1/2 “Director Andy Sandberg is skilful at choreographing the comings and goings of the cast of eleven. The first half’s pedestrian pace picks up noticeably in the second to deliver some satisfyingly direct Teutonic conflict. Many of the original 1945 Farm Hall recordings and transcripts are missing from the historical record and one supposes quite a lot of dramatic licence goes in Brody’s narrative. Nevertheless, Operation Epsilon is an interesting and engaging true story, well told.”
Lost in Theatreland: **** “This cast is also incredible. Simon Bubb as Rittner connects with the audience in a way that makes us feel all the more immersed with the action. Nathanial Parker and Simon Chandler’s portrayal as Otto Hahn and Max von Laue are also particular highlights, both completely harrowing in moments of intense regret and reflection.”
Theatre Weekly: “This is a play that asks big questions, and it doesn’t have the answers – which is the point. The biggest question asked in Operation Epsilon is whether or not to believe the group when they say they never intended to build an atomic bomb; they just wanted to create an efficient engine. Even the men themselves don’t seem to want to agree on that prickly topic, and it’s something the audience will have to think about for themselves.”
Broadway World: *** “Thanks to these standout performances, it is an interesting watch; thankfully this all-male show doesn’t downplay the significance of Lise Meitner’s work, even though it threatens to early on, and it does make you think hard about the political nature of scientific research. This is perhaps the most important point to consider, as no researcher can ever be 100% objective and impartial – we simply need to trust that the work is done for the good of all, rather than on the behalf of a crazed minority. Lots to contemplate.”
All That Dazzles: *** “Well-written and admirably interested in sharing a less widely discussed part of military history, Operation Epsilon has been made with a clear understanding of the period and the significance of the events its story surrounds. Where I struggled with the number of important players, and lack of focus on most individual arcs, there was a clear love for the work elsewhere in the audience, and I can’t help but admire the willingness to explore the perspective of those who considered themselves neither good nor evil, not truly part of the war itself. Morality is complicated, and I’m glad to see a willingness to explore this in the arts.”
The Stage: **** “Egos and ethics clash in this compelling UK premiere of Alan Brody’s cerebral character study.”
British Theatre Guide: “Although the play doesn’t really have the pull of a central dramatic tension or a complex developing character, it is always interesting, and, particularly in the second half, raises important issues about the complicity of the scientists in the horrors of fascism.”
Operation Epsilon continues to play until the 21st October.