Review: The End of the Night, at Park 200

Assured performances in play about 1945 meeting that is a fascinating footnote in history

Thursday, 12th May — By Lucy Popescu

The End of the Night credit Mark Douet

The End of the Night. Photo: Mark Douet

ON April 20, 1945, Heinrich Himmler (Richard Clothier) met Norbert Masur (Ben Caplan) a Swedish Jew, in a farmhouse 50 miles north of Berlin.

The clandestine meeting had been arranged by Himmler’s physiotherapist and masseur, Felix Kersten (Michael Lumsden) who later wrote about the encounter in his memoirs. The only other witness was Kersten’s housekeeper, Elisabeth (Audrey Palmer).

As the Swedish representative of the World Jewish Congress, Masur’s aim is to secure the early release of surviving concentration camp prisoners in contravention of Hitler’s orders that no Jew should outlast the regime. Recognising he’s “the only free Jew in Germany” he’s understandably nervous.

The Reichsführer-SS turns up late, having lingered at Adolf Hitler’s final birthday party. His political motivations are clear: Defeat is imminent and he hopes to make a pact with the Western allies driven by a mutual distrust of communism. He spins the same lies – that the Nazis’ mission had been to destroy “Jewish Bolshevism.”

Himmler was a chilling monster and an adept liar. As Clothier’s incarnation dispassionately relates the twisted version of events that led to the “Final Solution”, one cannot help but think of Vladimir Putin, who claims all manner of falsehoods to justify his invasion of Ukraine.

The meeting is a fascinating footnote from history but Alan Strachan’s production feels oddly constrained. The actors give assured performances but there is too much exposition, at the expense of drama. What’s at stake feels muted, the horror reduced to discourse over coffee and pastries.

The most poignant moment comes at the end with a monologue from Jeanne Bommerjin (Olivia Bernstone), a survivor of Ravensbrück, who observes that the few detainees handed over to the Swedish and Danish Red Cross was too little, too late: “just a tear in the sea”.

Until May 28
parktheatre.co.uk

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