TAKEN AT MIDNIGHT
by Mark Hayhurst.
Minerva Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 1 November 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm no performance 20 Oct. Mat Sat & 8, 15, 21, 23, 30 Oct 2.45pm.
Audio-described 24 Oct, 25 Oct 2.45pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 October.
Battle between human determination and political power grips ever-tighter..
It must have seemed a brilliant opportunity, for a radical young lawyer to cross-examine the leader of the nation’s fascists, tying him in verbal knots in open court. But the whirligig of time soon brought its revenges. Within three years Adolf Hitler had gone from awkward witness to rules of Germany. Soon, the radical lawyer, Hans Litten, was beginning a series of imprisonments and beatings.
Thrust into the shade, he and two other critics of the Nazis are first seen as their shadows run along the back wall. Wits and intellectuals, they learn the stolid seriousness of the Nazis, though Pip Donaghy’s joker Muhsam uses humour as defiance even at the final gunpoint.
Insincerity runs through Nazi behaviour from the opening where imprisonment is described as protective custody to John Light’s suavely poisonous Gestapo officer Conrad describing Dachau to Hans’ mother Irmgard as really quite a pleasant place.
Her continued attempts to rescue her son contrast the accommodations with power, the compromises of reason in her husband and an English aristocrat come to give help. Penelope Wilton’s Irmgard has a contained manner that can seem more English than German, but her fortitude and refusal to be sidetracked by Conrad shows a ruthless determination. She’ll do what’s necessary – the assertive, unprompted “Heil Hitler”s – but her only serious compromise with truth comes in urging Hans to lie about others and save himself.
But he’s her son and won’t. So he ends as a shadow again, defiant to the last. Hans’ decline is charted in Martin Hutson’s appearance, the clothes becoming rougher, the body mangled, until a final time-flip reverses him to his day of triumph.
Hutson, Wilton and Light play with a restraint characteristic of Jonathan Church’s production, which gains greatly from the approach. The facts need no reinforcing, and Church’s approach shows experienced documentary-maker Mark Hayhurst’s story to advantage.
Skilfully constructed, the piece unfolds its events steadily and clearly, with Irmgard highlighted as she describes her responses to the newly Nazified Germany. The play is a surprise, a fine, informative, involving drama from outside the hothouse of regular dramaturgical suspects.
Irmgard Litten: Penelope Wilton.
Hans Litten: Martin Hutson.
SA Officer: Dermot McLaughlin.
Carl von Ossietzky: Mike Grady.
Erich Muhsam: Pip Donaghy.
Dr Conrad: John Light.
Fritz Litten: Allan Corduner.
Gustav Hammerman: Marc Antolin.
Lord Clifford Allen: David Yelland.
Hotelier: Christopher Hogben.
Voice of Adolf Hitler: Roger Allam.
Director: Jonathan Church.
Designer: Robert Jones.
Lighting: Tim Mitchell.
Sound: Mike Walker.
Music: Matthew Scott.
Dialect coach: Penny Dyer.
Fight director: Terry King.
Associate director: Michael Oakley.