Pros: Ferdinand von Schirach’s writing in matters of law and moral philosophy is polished and compelling.
Cons: The performance suffered from the sweltering temperature of the auditorium.
Under the hand of Olivier Award winner Anna Fleischle, the auditorium of the Lyric Hammersmith becomes a courtroom for Ferdinand von Schirach’s controversial drama, Terror. Facing the audience centre-stage is the bench of the Presiding Judge (Tanya Moodie) flanked on both sides by smaller desks for the Prosecuting Counsel Nelson (Emma Fielding) and the Defence Counsel Biegler (Forbes Masson). In the dock is fighter pilot Lars Koch (Ashley Zhangazha), accused of killing 164 people.
Informing the audience that after the hearing we will be called upon to decide the sentence, the Judge presents the case in detail. On 26th May 2016 a terrorist hijacked a commercial flight from Berlin to Munich, intending to crash it in to the Allianz Arena where 70,000 people were gathered for a football match. Contravening the Minister of Defence’s order to abandon the mission, fighter pilot Lars Koch, in charge of diverting the civilian aircraft, decided autonomously to shoot it down, avoiding the disaster, but killing everyone onboard. Arrested as soon as he landed, Koch is charged with murder for deaths of all 164 passengers.
The prosecutor Nelson’s closing argument is based on moral and philosophical principles, such as the inability of an individual to judge whether one life can be spared to save several others. Nelson compares the situation to that of a man who, taken to hospital for a broken bone, is sacrificed to save the lives of the many waiting for an organ transplant.
With a much more pragmatic defence line, Biegler’s counter-argument centres on the idea of the lesser of two evils: the necessity of sacrificing the few to save the many. With another medical metaphor, he mentions a court case that ruled the death of one conjoined twin to save the life of the other, where both wouldn’t have survived without action being taken.
Ferdinand von Schirach’s drama is polished and compelling, the plot well devised and the arguments clearly presented. Due to the nature of the play the roles are strongly defined, but there’s little space for in depth exploration of the personalities. The whole cast deliver convincing performances, with Zhangazha appearing aloof and expressing himself with an economy of words suited to his military rank.
Adding to the realism of the piece, director Sean Holmes opts for stark lighting, with a limited presence of sound effects used to reproduce the natural noises of a tribunal and its corridors.
After a short and much needed break in the Lyric’s beautiful rooftop terrace, we were all invited back into the stuffy auditorium where, remote in hand, we had to decide on the fate of the accused. Senior fighter pilot Lars Koch was found guilty by 104 members of the audience but his charges were ultimately dismissed thanks to 196 favourable votes.
Author: Ferdinand von Schirach
Translated by: David Tushingham
Director: Sean Holmes
Producer: Lyric Hammersmith
Box Office: 020 8741 6850
Booking Link: https://lyric.co.uk/shows/terror/
Booking Until: 15 July 2017