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Clever Dick review at Hampstead Theatre

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They say that the secret of comedy is in the timing and in Crispin Whittell’s scientific farce, the timing is atomic.

Here is a well-crafted play, not only in the language and characterisation but also in the gradual, meticulously planned development of the plot. Farce has to be constructed with clockwork precision and executed with a similar attention to detail. Whittell manages it beautifully.

While the essential story is based around real-life Nobel Prize-winning scientist Richard Feynman and his breaking into a top secret safe while working on Oppenheimer’s nuclear weapons programme during the Second World War, the play itself is set in an almost alternate reality.

This allows Whittell to parody the dangers of flawed deductive reasoning in much the same way as Stoppard attempted in The Real Inspector Hound. It also allows him to comment on the idiocy of witch hunts, such as those perpetrated under McCarthyism or perhaps even taking a country to war on unproved so-called evidence.

As Feynman, Adrian Rawlins centres his character in a tornado of emotions having not slept for 58 hours. He is at times hysterical at others, seemingly only a bit part in his own life, blithely accepting the bizarre events going on around him.

But it is Corey Johnson as the gumshoe detective who steals the show. An all-American man, his brawn over brains approach becomes a salutary lesson in jumping to the wrong conclusions.

Production Information

Hampstead Theatre, May 18-June 24

Author and director
Crispin Whittell
Hampstead Theatre
Adrian Rawlins, Jennifer Higham, Corey Johnson, Jamie King, Jenny Gleave
Running time
1hr 50mins

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