Poster for the physicist, featuring a photo of a man's face staring directly ahead. Text reads "The Physicists. Written by Friedrich Dürrenmatt and directed by Holly Johnson. NUTS 11/12/13 May. Gorman Arts Centre. Tickets from $10.

NUTS’s "The Physicists": An Entertaining Satire with a Pinch of Meaning

The National University Theatre Society’s (NUTS) production of The Physicists makes for an incredibly enjoyable night, with phenomenal acting, great staging and incredible quartet accompaniment engaging the audience throughout.
A German Satire from the 60s is an interesting choice in production for NUTS: but it’s one they pull off with aplomb. The play follows the story of Johann Wilhelm Mobius, a successful physicist gone insane and battling with visions of King Solomon. He is accompanied by fellow Sanitarium inmates Ernst Heinrich Ernesti (who believes himself to be Albert Einstein), and Herbert Georg Beutler (believing he’s Sir Isaac Newton). The play opens on the scene of a murder – one of the nurses has been strangled by Beutler, and by the end of the first act history repeats itself, with another nurse meeting a similar fate. Without giving away too much of the action (no spoilers here), the play has several more twists and turns that pull the audience along for the ride, finishing with a delightful twist that leaves us wanting more.
The acting in the production was almost flawless. The dynamics between cast members were natural and full of chemistry, the movements well staged and interesting, and the cast held our attention and kept it, even during longer monologue pieces that managed to be dramatic without becoming obnoxious. Acting from Spencer Cliff and Jack Shanahan was particularly notable, as they managed to portray two madmen seemingly effortlessly, jumping between periods of sanity and insanity with ease. Claudia Harris also gave a stellar performance, comedic in parts without trying too hard, and owning the stage from all angles.
The staging was simplistic but effective; the white walls and doors perfectly portraying the clinical nature of an insane asylum, and created a setting that fit all purposes within the play. Directing from Holly Johnson was spectacular, and she deserves her own round of applause for staging an excellent production. The use of a live quartet adds a great element to the atmosphere, helping to build tension in opportune moments without being overwhelming, and bringing well-known classics to the stage that complement the action perfectly.
NUTS’ production of The Physicists perfectly balances humour with intensity, comes with masterful acting from the cast and directing from Holly Johnson, and did not disappoint in the slightest. In this play, the audience gets their laughs, while the play also leaves a resounding message about freedom of thought, scientific ethics, and the ability of humans to handle the responsibility that comes with great knowledge. Overall, a night well spent, and a worthwhile investment for a great night of theatre.
NUTS’ The Physicists plays at the Gorman Arts Centre from the 11-13 May. Details can be found on the production’s Facebook event.

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