The Independent London Newspaper


THEATRE: Have we got nukes for you in The Bomb: A Partial History

Simon Chandler and David Yipp in The Bomb: A Partial History

Published: 23 February, 2012
THE BOMB: A PARTIAL HISTORY at the Tricycle Theatre

THESE 10 short plays by nine different playwrights span over 70 years from 1940 into the future, and look at key points and problems in the history of what are now called Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Presented as First Blast: Proliferation and Second Blast: Present Dangers, you can see them over two separate evenings or on the same day at weekends.

Some are fact, some fiction, with verbatim politicians’ pronounce­ments on news film or delivered by actors in the interstices.

The topics are deadly serious but there’s also lots of humour in this imaginative production by director Nicholas Kent, about to leave after 28 years at the helm of the theatre he has done so much to put on the map.

The humour is there from the start: 1940 and two German scientists eager to pass on their discoveries but stuck in a Whitehall lobby up against a civil servant.

With insights into political situations, as when Attlee discovered the deal Churchill had agreed on the atom bomb, and discussions of dilemmas such as that facing India with its Gandhian tradition, the plays are very different but all tell a story.

There is a chilling picture of the Israeli and Iranian secret services at work and the assassina­tion of a nuclear scientist, a farce set after the breakup of the USSR with a Ukrainian family trying to sell off nuclear missiles, and a character study of North Koreans comparing the options: getting aid or going nuclear.

My favourites were Lee Blessing’s Seven Joys, a clever satire on the “Nuclear Club” and David Greig’s The Letter of Last Resort with a lovely performance from Belinda Lang as a future UK Prime Minister trying to write instructions to a nuclear submarine caption as to what action to take if the UK is destroyed by a nuclear attack, aided by her Private Secretary. She is just one of an excellent cast.

By the time those German scientists, or a pair very like them, reappear in the final play as nuclear inspectors, you are bound to have learned something but you’ll have been entertained, not preached at.

020 7328 1000


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