Into that Darkness
With the flick of a light the reflective glass box on the main stage of the Citizens Theatre has become a room. The audience have become voyeurs. Journalist Citta Sereny (Blythe Duff) is interviewing war criminal Franz Stangl (Cliff Burnett) about his role at the Second World War extermination camp, Treblinka. As Sereny calmly chips away at her subject, we gain unparalleled insight into the mind of a monster. Descriptions of early beatings from his abusive father: ‘stop it!’ his mother cried, ‘you’re getting blood all over my clean walls,’ precede depictions of his evil descent through the Nazi ranks, from police officer to death camp Commandant. Stangl’s stoic stance that his role was purely administrative can only crumble as other characters, including his wife (Molly Innes) and a host of former colleagues played by Ali Craig, deepen our understanding of the layers of lies and self-denial that facilitated the mass murder of thousands of Jews. And from that horror, Director Gareth Nicholls has created a powerful and strangely beautiful piece of theatre; from the crisp costumes to the elegant shapes Blythe Duff makes when sitting half towards the audience, half towards the proceedings inside that institutional-grey room.
The masterful dialogue-switches between actors, which take us to another conversation, another time – sometimes contradicting the present conversation, at other times enriching it – demonstrate Nicholls’ flair for storytelling, and indeed casting. A perfectly poised performance from Duff sets up a cat-and-mouse chemistry as Burnett’s chillingly believable Stangl falls prey to her prying; and despite his justifications, horrendous truths are laid bare.
Reviewer : Lou Prendergast