Court in the act

17th May 1996 at 01:00
The timing is spot on. Coinciding with the first war crimes tribunal to take place since the Nuremberg Trials 50 years ago, the Tricycle Theatre presents Nuremberg War Crimes Trial edited by Richard Norton-Taylor and accompanied by three one act, modern day "responses" from the former Yugoslavia, Haiti and Rwanda.

Directed by Jonathan Kent, who worked with Guardian journalist Norton-Taylor on a similarly constructed edited version of the Scott Enquiry, Nuremberg offers no answers nor sheds new light on how and why the Nazis carried out the crimes they did. We've heard it all before: the smoothly oiled death factories, the limitless supply of slave labour from the occupied countries of Europe, the crude race theories and propaganda.

Where its strength lies is in the depiction of what has come to be known as the banality of evil looks: what those men looked and sounded like, what their value system consisted of, what their preoccupations were.

In the bustling wood-panelled courtroom, Hitler's second in command Goering (Michael Cochrane as a Jack Nicholson look-alike wearing black sunglasses and a smirk), the patrician architect Speer, Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz and Rosenberg, self-styled Nazi philosopher, variously pass the buck and lock horns with the American, British and Russian prosecutors over details (Rosenberg insists that his use of the word "ausrottung" in a communique being used as evidence means "removal," not "extermination") and justify their actions as soldiers.

Ex Yu, the short companion piece written by Goran Stefanovski, set in a post-war hotel restaurant, is about a young woman trying to find out the circumstances of her father's death. The play is an attempt, like the Nuremberg Trials themselves, to personalise guilt. Her father was a history teacher who, her nationalistic informant tells her, shot himself. Is this the allegorical death of the lessons history can teach us or is it one of the two options the philosophical waiter suggests are the decent things you can do in war? The other is to go mad.

Nuremberg and the three one-act responses can be seen at the Tricycle Theatre until June 8. For bookings and details of the changing programme, ring 0171 328 1000.

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