(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 10/5.)
One of the Minerva’s recent highlights was a revival of Bertolt Brecht’s allegorical fable about Hitler’s ascent to power, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Now the director of that performance, Jonathan Church, brings us a very different play about Germany in the 1930s: a sober, gripping drama by Mark Hayhurst about precisely what happened to those who did indeed treat Hitler’s rise as resistible. Hayhurst wrote a TV play, The Man Who Crossed Hitler, and a documentary, Hans Litten vs Adolf Hitler: To Stop a Tyrant, about the extraordinary story of a young Jewish lawyer who subpoenaed Hitler to appear as a witness in a criminal trial in 1931 and who, in the process, called him “a cross between Baron Münchhausen and Attila the Hun”.
Although Hayhurst’s play shows how Litten was taken into “protective custody” in 1933 and sent to Sonnenburg concentration camp, it focuses on the attempts by Litten’s mother, Irmgard, to confront the Gestapo and rescue her son from what seemed his inevitable fate. Taken at Midnight could easily become a simple story of a heroic mother battling to save her incarcerated son, but Hayhurst has the intelligence to highlight the complexity of the characters, without diminishing the brutality of the Nazi regime from its beginnings.