facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11

Berlin Hanover Express

Published 11 March 2009

In his new play Ian Kennedy Martin explores an intriguing side of World War Two, focusing on the difficulties and moral dilemmas of treading the high wire of neutrality whilst war rages around you.

The programme notes for Berlin Hanover Express delve into a less frequently discussed aspect of the 20th century’s second bloody war: the position of Ireland, whose government took a neutral stance while its old enemies, Britain, fought the new European threat, Nazi Germany. But though the country’s official line did not alter throughout the war, the approach of individuals within that country was more nuanced. Martin explores these nuances through a scenario that plays out in the office of the Irish legation in Berlin in 1942 and asks: can any individual truly remain indifferent to deplorable crimes committed by one side or the other during a time of war?

The question is asked of two Irish diplomats, playboy jokester O’Kane and the older, hard-working Mallin, who share an office – much to Mallin’s dismay – in war-torn Berlin. A fragile harmony is maintained in this little pocket of neutrality; the pair’s work can be sent, unobstructed, back to head office in Dublin, as long as they take seriously Germany’s claims that an Irishman known to them could be spying for the British. The local Nazi official, Kollvitz, is indulged as long as he continues to bring them the best food and wine, but he must not cross an unspoken line.

But already the situation is tenuous, if not slightly ridiculous. The war is referred to by the Irish as merely an ‘emergency’ and the Nazis’ increasingly reported treatment of the Jews and other enemies as ‘internal security’. When Kollvitz brings those barbaric policies into the Irish legation itself, through his treatment of their demure cook Christe, the Irish pair can no longer sit on the metaphorical fence. When it comes down to it, the playwright suggests, doing nothing is doing something.

Based entirely in designer Paul Farnsworth’s sepia-toned office, Berlin Hanover Express contextualises the action by interspersing, between scenes, real footage of Berlin during the war, including fresh faced members of the Hitler Youth at a rally and the destruction of the capital’s streets following Allied bombing raids.

Owen McDonnell as jack-the-lad O’Kane is best at pacifying his German hosts while increasingly railing against them; Isla Carter, as Christe, shows the devastating choices faced by those German citizens who find themselves hunted by their own leaders; but it is Sean Campion, as the firmly neutral Mallin, who illustrates the internal moral struggles faced by those loyal to a neutral country that does not yet know the outcome of the war, nor the true depths of the Nazis’ wickedness.

CB

Share

Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.