Albert Speer by David Edgar Royal National Theatre; at Last Night's First Night

Daily Mail (London), May 26, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Albert Speer by David Edgar Royal National Theatre; at Last Night's First Night


Byline: MICHAEL COVENEY

HOW decent a man was Hitler's architect, Albert Speer, the so-called respectable Nazi?

The question survives the Nuremberg trial, Speer's 20 years in Spandau jail, and even Gitta Sereny's magisterial book on which David Edgar has based this ambitious new play.

At the crux is the nature of the relationship between Hitler and his chosen minister of armaments. The young man really believed the good of the country was at stake.

Speer, at the age of 28, was catapulted into the post of favourite son, confidant and chosen companion of the Fuhrer.

Trevor Nunn's panoramic, pictorial production at the Lyttelton highlights and contrasts the family aspect: how Speer failed to rescue his own brother, stricken with jaundice at Stalingrad.

This is the first sign that he could obliterate inconvenient guilt, and Alex Jennings's mask-like face stiffens each sinew against the protest of humanity.

For although the play ends with Himmler at the Posen conference declaring that the Nazi hierarchy must take their secrets to the grave, the impact of the drama, and of Jennings's riveting performance, is to apportion blame with hindsight.

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