Review: Taken at Midnight, at Chichester Festival Theatre

Taken at Midnight. Photo by Manuel Harlan.
Taken at Midnight. Photo by Manuel Harlan.
Tom Chambers as Bobby in Crazy For You. Picture by Richard Davenport

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Telling the true story of German lawyer Hans Litten’s demolition of Adolf Hitler in the witness box and its subsequent – and with hindsight, predictable – devastating effects on Litten and his family, Taken at Midnight pulls no punches.

Played on Robert Jones’ skewed set reminiscent of 1930s’ German expressionist films, Jonathan Church’s sublime cast and playwright Mark Hayhurst’s cerebral script make for a harrowing evening.

And I mean that as a compliment.

As Litten, Martin Hutson oozes quiet confidence and strength. It’s an appealing, intelligent performance, quiet and controlled. John Light as the Nazi doctor Litten’s mother visits to attempt to obtain some form of redemption for her son plays the dichotomy of the sympathetic Nazi extraordinarily well and Mike Grady and Pip Donaghy as Litten’s cell-mates make for a great comedy double-act.

But giving a superbly underplayed and controlled performance as Irmgard, Litten’s mother, Penelope Wilton is simply astonishing. She raises her voice once during the performance – when demanding the right to touch her son as she visits him in Dachau – but Irmgard’s passion and her need and her drive are never in question.

And that mother-and-son scene in Dachau – quiet and intense – is heartbreaking. Until November 1.