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Penelope Wilton stars in Taken At Midnight (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Penelope Wilton stars in Taken At Midnight (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Taken At Midnight

Published 27 January 2015

What it’s all about?

The little known story of Hans Litten, a German lawyer who put Adolf Hitler on the stand in a trial against four storm troopers. Two years later, the 1933 Reichstag fire gave the Nazi party an excuse to round up thousands of German citizens opposed to its regime and amongst them was Litten, finally able to face punishment for his ‘humiliation’ of the leader.

Television writer Mark Hayhurst’s debut play tells this horrific but awe-inspiring story from this point onwards. As Hans is moved from concentration camp to concentration camp, his mother Irmgard recounts the fearless timeline of his life as she does everything in her power to fight for his release.

Who’s in it?

An emotional and brutal drama, Penelope Wilton leads the cast as Irmgard with gravitas and utter composure. For the near entirety of the two and a half hour run, her eyes glisten with tears as she embodies the raw heartache of a mother who is forced to stand by as her child is beaten down in the most horrific of manners, but her knuckles always remain clenched in control.

It’s a quite remarkable performance that matches both Irmgard and Hans’ self-assured bravery. Even as the equally impressive Martin Hutson seems to disappear on stage before our eyes as the eternally principled Hans – eyes hollow, bones broken and skin bruised – Hutson never loses control.

As his allies in the camps, Pip Donaghy and Mike Grady bring charisma totally at odds with their grey surroundings and battered faces as we’re reminded his fellow subordinates were editors, journalists, satirists and writers.

What should I look out for?

John Light’s complex portrayal of Dr Conrad, a Gestapo officer in charge of dealing with Irmgard’s continual investigations into her son’s welfare. It’s unpredictable, slick and ultimately blood-chilling.

The moment when Dr Conrad offers up the news that Hans has been taken to a concentration camp rather than prison almost as an olive branch, something to offer hope. While he smiles and Irmgard looks unsure, the audience audibly bristles.

In a nutshell?

Penelope Wilton is remarkable in Mark Hayhurst’s engrossing and awe-inspiring drama about the true story of one incredible mother’s determination to protect her heroically brave son.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@PaulPhear A treat to see Penelope Wilton’s portrayal of parental love & determination as the mother of lawyer who prosecuted Hitler #TakenAtMidnight

@IANATDM Taken at Midnight-Haymarket starring Penelope Wilton. terrific piece of new writing superbly acted. #takenatmidnight

Will I like it?

This is a deeply unsettling time in history to set a play. As an audience member, it is an uncomfortable experience to know the events that will unfold after the play draws to its conclusion, so perhaps ‘like’ isn’t the right word. It is, however, an engrossing and fascinating story, inspirational and educational, and flawlessly delivered in Jonathan Church’s striking production.

Taken At Midnight is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 14 March. You can book tickets through us or, for performances until 13 February, through our discount ticket promotion Get Into London Theatre.

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