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Terror (Susan Elkin reviews)

Terror – ★★★★
By Ferdinand von Schirach. Translated by David Tushingham. Produced by John Martin Productionsin association with Trinity Theatre Productions.
society/company: Trinity Theatre
performance date: 04 Jun 2019


This immersive, interactive project provides one of the most interesting evenings of theatre I’ve enjoyed for some time. We gathered first – 48 of us – in the bar at the Assembly Hall where we were assigned to one of four juries and then led by a robed usher into the courtroom inside the Police Station next door – an inspired idea.

Ferdinand von Schirach’s play (translated by David Tushingham) tells the story of, and asks questions about, an incident in which a passenger plane was hijacked by terrorists who planned to dive bomb a football stadium where 70,000 people would have been killed. It didn’t happen because Major Lars Koch (Chris Casey) shot it down against orders from his superiors, thereby killing all 164 passengers and crew. Koch is now on trial for murder.

At the performance I saw three out of the four juries found him guilty. No doubt the verdict sometimes goes the other way. The arguments about whether or not it is morally right to sacrifice one human life to save hundreds of others or whether by finding a man like Koch guilty you support the original terrorist act are complex, complicated and difficult – I changed my mind twice at the jury discussion stage.

There is some fine naturalistic acting from some very skilled actors in this play. Robert Rowe is totally believable as the benign, intelligent judge. Elinor Lawless gives a fine performance as the very persuasive prosecution counsel and, once she gets going, Kirsten Hazel Smith is a convincing defence counsel. I also admired very much Adam Wittek’s moving portrayal of a nurse whose husband was lost on the aircraft although his testimony, good drama as it is, is arguably irrevelant to the main thrust of the piece.

It is pretty challenging to hold an audience in a piece which is entirely word-based. There is no action – apart from barristers walking round the court as they speak – and no props or lighting although the uniforms and other costumes are good. So we’re entirely dependent on the acting ability of the cast to make us believe and feel involved. John Martin is an fine director who has assembled a strong cast and I can report that Terror works. Catch it if you can.

First published by Sardines:
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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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