Tuesday, 25 October 2005

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann by Neil Cole, Oct 25, 2005

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann  by Neil Cole 
produced by La Mama
Courthouse Theatre, Oct 25 until Nov 5, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 25, 2005

Much is documented of the Nazi extermination of the Jews in World War Two. Neil Cole's play, The Trial of Adolf Eichmann, deals specifically with the role of Adolf Eichmann, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the SS.

Eichmann was tried, in 1961, as a war criminal, found guilty and sentenced to death, for his participation in what was euphemistically known by the Nazis as 'The Final Solution of the Jewish Question'. 

Eichmann (Kevin Harrington) followed other Nazis by professing his innocence by virtue of the fact that he was just following orders. The evidence suggested that he was, in fact, the architect of the plan for extermination as well as the officer in charge of transporting Jews to the death camps.

The great strength of the production, directed by Alice Bishop, is the skill of its cast. Cole's script suffers from too much exposition but the cast manage the informational dialogue and weighty speeches well.

The play does not provide any new information about Eichmann and the dramatisation of parts of his life could more effectively illuminate his character, history or motivations.

Cole's play intercuts the courtroom trial with Eichmann's relationship with General Heydrich (OK) (Mike Bishop) and with the wartime experiences of Kitia Altman (Marcella Russo) and Arnold Erlanger, (Lee Mason) both European Jews now resident in Melbourne.

In fact, the play really becomes Kitia's story rather than Eichmann's.

Harrington portrays Eichmann as a stuffy, rigid, efficient bureaucrat. He is a petty little public servant who graduated from managing distribution of utilities to managing transportation of Jews to their deaths.

Russo almost steals the show with her sympathetic portrayal of Kitia, the Jewish survivor. Her description of the dead and dying on Kitia's arrival at Auschwitz is profoundly moving.

Bishop plays Heydrich as a cultured and arrogant Nazi while Don Bridges, plays Rossman, the German uniform manufacturer, with great sensitivity.

Jim Daly's first speech as the Jewish prosecutor, Hausner, was poignant and Mason's young Arnold provides a second, perhaps extraneous, example of a Jewish life turned upside down.

Newcomer, teenager, Lucy Honigman is credible in both her roles.

Perhaps this very didactic play could benefit form a more imaginative style of production to work against the very wordy script.

By Kate Herbert

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