Hess, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Review
"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