City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Hess, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Review

By Jon Cross - Posted on 09 August 2016

Hess image
Show details
Kinbur Productions & Gilded Balloon
Running time: 
Kim Kinnie (director), Michael Burrell (writer)
Derek Crawford Munn (Hess)

"Am I still so evil after so long?", asks Rudolf Hess, the solitary last inmate of Spandau prison. Weighed down by advanced old age, tormented by an agonising stomach ulcer and long since resigned to his fate, he has, in his troubled mind at least, escaped his castle prison to speak freely of his life, his beliefs and his punishment.

As we listen, it is not to the ravings of a madman, though he has feigned insanity more than once before. Wearily, he recounts the familiar details of his story - the early years with Hitler, his rise to Deputy Führer of The Third Reich, the secret flight to Scotland on a failed peace mission, the trial at Nuremberg, the long decades of imprisonment. But the calm, measured account of an old man remembering - often fondly - his younger self is punctuated by explosive outbursts of visceral rage as he rails against what he sees as the injustice of his punishment.

This timely revival of Michael Burrell's one-man play is at its most powerful and provocative when it explores the terrifying consequences of profoundly held beliefs about how the world should be ordered, the inexorable reality of all war, and the nature of fair judgment and just punishment.

Derek Crawford Munn displays complete mastery of this hugely challenging role which at times invites us to seek some shred of humanity in this frail, sick, lonely old man shuffling around in his pajamas, only to be jolted back to the evil reality. Of course, he says, "If we had won, we would have shot them all - Churchill and the others. But we were a totalitarian state! You are Christian democracies! No-one has ever taken a life so slowly as you have taken mine."

Hess mocks the Nuremberg indictments. 'Crimes against peace! All war is a crime against peace!' He wonders how he could he be judged by the Americans and the Russians when he was out of the war before they were in it! "You cannot," he reflects, "put Revenge in a pretty dress and call it Justice."

He is, ultimately, unrepentant and he seeks no forgiveness; he cannot for one moment let go of the repugnant ideology which has been so central to his being for so long. Without that, he would cease to exist. That, then, is his final resting place in hell on earth, and oblivion will be the only release.

Aug 3-29, 3pm
Tickets £10-£12

As someone who has actually met Hess on several occasions in Spandau Prison, both in 1959 and 1960, then again in 1974/5, I applaud the outstanding portrayal of the man by Derek Crawford Munn. The show is well worth the five stars that Jon Cross has given it as it is an enthralling and fascinating glimpse of history.
Hess was firmly convinced that he could persuade Britain to side with Germany but, as the script points out, he foolishly talked of getting rid of Churchill, Eden, Atlee and all the political hierarchy. It is interesting that Hess should focus on 'the deception' of Churchill yet he seemingly ignores his own deception of Hitler by flying to Britain to sue for peace.
But Derek Crawford Munn has Hess wonderfully portrayed with his mannerisms just right - from what I remember all those years ago. Congratulations are also due to the script writer, Michael Burrell, who produced a thoroughly believable script and also plaudits are due to Kim Kinnie for an excellent production.