Lyric Hammersmith, London – until 15 July 2017
Guest reviewer: Franco Milazzo
If there’s a theme to the events of the past year – particularly the incidents in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, Grenfell Tower and Finsbury Park Mosque, but also the potential results of the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s ascendancy – “terror” may well be it.
As Ferdinand von Schirach’s play lays out, terror generally has two distinct components for those not directly affected. The first is the shock when hearing the news, processing the titbits as they emerge and empathising with the victims and their friends and family. The second part is the moralising and analysing. What could have been done differently? Can we prevent a similar incident? And who is really to blame here?
Translated by David Tushingham, the story sees pilot Lars Koch (Ashley Zhangazha) on trial for multiple counts of murder. Ten months beforehand, a hijacked plane with 164 passengers was heading towards a packed football stadium containing 70,000 people. In contravention of a recently passed law, Koch shot down the plane before it could crash into the stadium.
While the world of TV and stage is not exactly short of courtroom dramas, this one comes with a twist. Attached to the seat of every audience member is a pad which allows them to vote on whether they find Koch guilty or innocent. They, and they alone, decide the outcome of this trial after hearing evidence from air control officer Christian Lauterbach (John Lightbody) and Franziska Meiser (Shanaya Rafaat), a co-plaintiff whose sibling was aboard the plane, and arguments from the prosecuting counsel (Emma Fielding) and defence counsel (Forbes Masson).
As a theatrical spectacle, Terror is rather dry for the most part. There are few technicalities but, then again, there are few moments of genuine wit. There is moralising aplenty amidst the legal pontifications but none of the insights are terribly groundshaking. Sean Holmes’ direction is limp, especially towards the end; the speeches, especially the closing arguments with their multitude of pointless pauses, seem to somehow drag on for longer than the length of the entire play. The acting (especially from the ebullient Masson and convincing Zhangazha) is of a good standard throughout but, ultimately, this is an intriguing concept in audience interaction wrapped around a plodding play which only occasionally bursts into life.
Don’t just take our word for it – see for yourself.