INTO THAT DARKNESS
by Gitta Sereny adapted by Robert David MacDonald.
Citizens’ Theatre 119 Gorbals Street G5 9DS To 30 May 2015.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 May.
A small piece writ large is a valuable reminder.
It took 20 years from the 1974 publication of Gitta Sereny’s calm yet remorseless record of her interviews with recently captured Nazi death-camp commander Franz Stangl to the production at Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre of Robert David MacDonald’s stage adaptation. Originally called In Quest of Conscience, this revival adopts the book’s title.
It was a small-scale piece, given in the Stalls Studio, a performance space some way between a cupboard and an auditorium by the theatre’s foyer, to the right of the entrance. In this miniscule space, most of its seats to the sides of the acting area, Macdonald’s Stangl sat at a desk, rumpled and in control of the situation, confidently recounting his life. What might elsewhere have seemed moments of memory lapse came over as the character reflecting on the answers to probing questions.
Rough-hewn and unpolished as life, it fitted an experience where we seemed to be overlooking a private meeting. London’s Finborough Theatre presented another small-scale revival in 2011, but Gareth Nicholls’ Citizens’ revival is the one to have seen, though the translation to the larger, proscenium-arch main-stage inevitably shifts the emphasis.
Encased in the glass walls of Neil Haynes’ set, recalling the bullet-proof glass used for trials of Nazi criminals, the words necessarily spoken with some amplification, the experience becomes more consciously a performance.
Late on, when Gitta clears her mind of Stangl’s equivocating denials by ’phoning her family, Roberta Taylor in 1994 picked up a ’phone a step away from the interview space; now Blythe Duff moves outside the glass compartment. It makes the point but doesn’t so much implicate the audience in the mental frustration of the moral darkness she’s been tackling.
In 1994 MacDonald was the focus; for all Cliff Burnett’s authority (incidentally, he was superb in Oldham Coliseum’s Close the Coalhouse Door last year) Duff’s interviewer, capturing the tension between professionally calm surface and impulses of human revulsion, drives this revival. It has too the luxury of Molly Innes as Frau Stangl, whose presence adds to the self-indulgence of a character so concerned with his family and convinced of his good deeds.
Franz Stangl: Cliff Burnett.
Gitta Sereny: Blythe Duff.
Thea Stangl: Molly Innes.
Male Chorus: Ali Craig.
Director: Gareth Nicholls.
Designer: Neil Haynes.
Lighting: Stuart Jenkins.
Composer/Musical Director: Michael John McCarthy.
Assistant director: Stephen Darcy.