Terrorism is on all our minds at the moment so the decision to bring ‘Terror’ to the Lyric is undoubtedly a timely one. Discovering a key pad attached to each seat is an exciting start, giving each audience member a role as judge in the case that’s about to unfold. However it’s not quite the drama you might expect at this time of heightened anxiety l and cultural debate around the roots and impact of terrorism.

Written by German lawyer and playwright, Ferdinand von Schirach and translated by David Tusingham, ‘Terror’ is an entirely legal look at the guilt or innocence of a pilot who shoots down a hijacked Lufthansa plane. Instead of examining the terrorists motivation or history it is the fighter pilot, Lars Koch in the dock. His laywer justifying his decision to contravene orders and kill 164 innocent people in the hijacked plane on the basis that he probably saves 70,000 innocent people in a stadium below. But what if the passengers were about to break into the cockpit? Why wasn’t the stadium evacuated?
The night we went the audience were very closely split, testament to the convincing arguemnts on both sides, with Lars Koch being found innocent. There was a genuine gasp at the result, many people (I overheard in the break) certain that everyone would think the same as them. You’d think the UK would be starting to realise the error of making assumptions about the way other people will vote…

But this concept was the most dramatic element in what was a dry piece of theatre, despite fascinating areas of debate. Is the constitution more intelligent than we are? Is it reasonable to do the lesser evil over the greater one? Are we at war? Easy to kill with a missile but would you kill innocent people for the greater good if you had to use your bare hands?
Emma Fielding as prosecuting Counsel Nelson was particularly convincing delivering the complex arguments flawlessly and Forbes Masson as Defence Council offered welcome relief with his more relaxed banter.

Ultimately, the decision to write a play as an exact (though condensed) imitation of court proceedings left little space for the usual joys of theatre; subtext, physicality and characterisation. The cast, bar one, are all in ‘professional mode’ as lawyers, judges and tight lipped army personnel. Anna Fleischle court room set and Nick Manning’s sound, also aim at precise verisimilitude, with a vast chandelier glimpsed through the upper windows and the murmers of corridors seeping in through the door when witnesses occasionally entered the space. ‘Terror’ offers a fascinating debate, achieving what it set out to do no doubt, but feels constrained as a piece of theatre about such a rich subject matter.

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Theatre-News.com join Terror play @LyricHammersmith @LyricHammer on #pressnight Guilty. Not guilty... You decide.

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