The Major and The Scientists

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Germany’s ten foremost nuclear scientists were rounded up near the end of WWII and held captive in England by the British and American forces where they were secretly recorded. The transcripts of their conversations were classified for decades but have now inspired Alan Brody’s award-winning play Operation Epsilon, writes Michael Holland.

Operation Epsilon has now been fully cast and the role of Major T.H. Rittner is played by Simon Bubb who moved to South London from his childhood home in Essex when he came to study drama at the Webber Douglas Academy and never left.

Simon spoke to the News about discovering a love for acting at school when he was about 12: ‘You can let your creative imagination run wild but it’s also a craft, and you never stop learning new skills.’

His career so far has included landmark productions like the original War Horse, although his favourite stage experience up to this point was playing Benedict in Much Ado at the Globe: ‘It’s the most fun part in Shakespeare and the audience response was incredible’ he remembers. 

He tells me how proud he is to have been part of iconic comedies like W1A and Ghosts and says we can see him in the new series of The Madame Blanc Mysteries on Channel 5 early next year.

But like many actors, Simon likes to test the water on the dark side: ‘I’ve enjoyed being the baddie in TV crime shows like Silent Witness and Father Brown,’ he says with a sinister smile.

The role in Operation Epsilon offers added benefits for Simon; ‘I love history so I especially like doing plays set in the past – it’s fascinating doing the research… Operation Epsilon has been so interesting in that respect because it was such an extraordinary moment in history; although I could spend years researching nuclear physics and I still wouldn’t understand it!’

Thankfully, Simon doesn’t have to because his character, Major Rittner, is the only non-scientist in the play. ‘He has the task of keeping all these German scientists happy which means suppressing his own feelings about how they were working for the Nazis.’Adding. ‘At times that anger comes to the surface.’

I asked about rehearsals and they appear to be going well: ’It’s rare to do a play that has such a large and genuine ensemble cast. It’s beautifully written – each character is so well drawn and everybody gets their moment, and it helps having some great actors on board. We’re only one week into rehearsals and already there have been some spine-tingling moments.’

Joining Simon will be: Nicholas Armfield (Horst Korsching), Jamie Bogyo (Carl Friederich von Weizsäcker), Simon Chandler (Max von Laue), Matthew Duckett (Erich Bagge), Jake Mann (Karl Wirtz), Olivier Award winner Nathaniel Parker (Otto Hahn), Peter Prentice (Paul Harteck), Leighton Pugh (Walter Gerlach), Simon Rhodes (Kurt Diebner), and Gyuri Sarossy (Werner Heisenberg). Andy Sandberg directs.

Southwark Playhouse, Elephant, 1 Dante Place, London, SE11 4RX from 15 September – 21 October. Times: Mon–Sat: 7.45pm; Thu & Sat: 2.30pm. Admission: Previews £16, full price £32, concessions £25.50.



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