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TAKEN AT MIDNIGHT at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

March 12, 2015

TAKEN AT MIDNIGHT at the Theatre Royal Haymarket is a new play by Mark Hayhurst. Penelope Wilton plays the lead role of Irmgard Litten, the mother of Charles Litten, a German Jewish lawyer who subpoenaed Adolf Hitler to appear as a witness in a 1931 trial. Litten was subsequently taken into custody when the Nazis came to power and this is a record of his mother’s story.

This is a harrowing and powerful play which felt important to me. We all need to identify with the horror of the misuse of power and the dangers of compliant acquiescence. I remember the significant impact “Bent” had on me when I saw it at the National decades ago. “The banality of evil,” posits that evil deeds are, for the most part, not perpetrated by monsters or sadists. Most often, they are perpetrated by seemingly ordinary people, who value conformity and narrow self-interest over the welfare of others.

It is unusual to see a profound dramatic play of this nature in the West End and not just at the National Theatre. In some way that made the impact even more significant. Jonathan Church’s production with simple and effective design by Robert Jones gives this play a chilling edge.

Martin Hutson plays Hans Litten with a vulnerable yet steadfast grace. However the real drama for me came in the scenes between Irmgard Litten and the Gestapo Officer Dr Conrad. These encounters are the heart of the play and are beautifully written scenes. John Light is frighteningly excellent as the public face of the regime and Penelope Wilton is simply masterful.

Taken at Midnight

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