Sommer 14

Rolf Hochhuth’s reputation goes before him. The enfant terrible of German drama, in The Repesentative (1963) he accused Pope Pius X11 of collaborating with the Nazis in the Holocaust or at the very least, standing by and doing nothing to prevent it. In Soldiers (1967), he pointed the finger at Churchill for unleashing saturation bombing on German cities.

Now in Sommer 14, in an epic scan of the blundering potentates who brought World War 1 into being, Hochhuth again singles out Churchill, this time as a scheming warmonger in his decision to arm the trans-atlantic ocean liner, the Lusitania, as bait for German submarines and as a way of drawing neutral America into the war.

On the tiny stage that is the Finborough, `epic’ is not an easy quality to evoke. And Hocchuth’s published script runs to over 230 pages, many of them packed with additional commentary and stage directions. Much has been cut. Yet such is the nature of Hochhuth’s vision – a series of political tableaux ranging through Europe, from Paris to Berlin, the deck of the Lusitania, Sarajevo – no other word can really describe it.

It is a mighty undertaking as the Kaiser, the Tsar, Edward VII and Mrs Keppel, Churchill, Serbs, Parisian editors and a whole panoply of other characters incidental and crucial to the outcome flit across the stage in full period regalia, strategising, bickering, and falling into step.

Leading them a merry dance, however, is Death, a figure played by the remarkable and young Dean Bray, with blackened eyes and skeletal features, a macabre, savage commentator in the style of Joel Grey’s MC in Cabaret. Bray it is who narrates and sings a series of condemnatory, Brechtian songs inevitably mixturthe US into joining the war. on saturation on with the Nahe is still banned from It’s tempting to talk about over-kill when it comes to World War 1