Lifting the curtain on evil, retribution, repentance and forgiveness
An award winning play inspired by one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the Second World War and its aftermath is to go on tour next month.
On the night of 10 May 1941 a German fighter-bomber plane slipped through the UK’s air defences unscathed. However the pilot, a high ranking Nazi on a top secret mission, bailed out shortly before it crashed into moorland near Eaglesham in East Renfrewshire.
Attracted by the blazing wreckage local farmer David MacLean discovered the pilot, who identified himself as a Captain Alfred Horn, and invited him home at the end of a pitchfork for a cup of tea until the authorities arrived.
It was only after he had been taken into custody by the army that it was discovered he was really Adolf Hitler’s loyal deputy, Rudolf Hess – sparking a mystery which has remained unsolved through eight decades.
Over the years there has been tremendous speculation as to the reason for the mission, including suggestions it was a clandestine attempt to broker a peace deal with Britain just a month ahead of Hitler’s invasion of Russia.
Whatever the reason Hess was immediately imprisoned and later convicted at the Nuremberg trials on charges of ‘conspiracy for war’ and ‘crimes against peace’.
Sentenced to life, he was eventually locked up in the infamous Spandau prison in Germany until his death in 1987, aged 93, as the result of an apparent suicide.
Now, the one-man play HESS, written by Michael Burrel and starring Derek Crawford Munn, attempts to explore the motivations and complicated character of the man who spent half of his life in prison for his loyalty to the Nazi doctrine.
Set years into Rudolph Hess’s incarceration in the infamous Spandau Prison the production aims to stimulate debate while also giving a fascinating insight into the nature of evil, retribution, repentance and forgiveness.
The play supposes what Hess might say to an audience about himself, the Third Reich, and the world we have created since the downfall of the Nazis. Hitler’s Deputy asks the question – how much has really changed? Is it really a better place to live?
The script deals with the universal questions of the nature of war and its aftermath, hatred, and racism, no matter at what period in history they take place. The play has found new resonance in the wake of the recent EU Referendum and Brexit debate, the rise of Isis and the immigration issues facing Europe.
The original production of HESS was first produced in London in 1978. It went on to win and OBIE Award in New York for outstanding achievement in Off-Broadway theatre. It also won the Edmonton Journal Best Show Award in Canada and was nominated for two ACE Awards, including Best Single Play, at Los Angeles 1988. The television film version, screenplay by Michael Burrell, directed by Mark Chapman, won a Bronze Award at the New York Film Festival 1986.
Latterly it was a hit of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016, directed by Kim Kinnie and performed by Derek Crawford Munn.
HESS will play at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, on 03 May and The Tolbooth, Stirling on 20 May before it heads to the Prague Fringe from 26 May to 3 June 2017.