You, the jury: plays are giving power to the people

A new show, Terror, restores drama to its classical function by asking us to make a moral decision. But it doesn’t go nearly far enough

Drama invites judgment. One of the oldest plays in the western canon, The Oresteia, ends with Athenian jurors deciding whether Orestes should be condemned for matricide. Ferdinand von Schirach’s Terror, a courtroom drama getting its British premiere at the Lyric Hammersmith, ends with a decision as to whether a German airforce major is guilty of murder in shooting down a hijacked plane targeting a packed football stadium. The difference is this: in The Oresteia we are simply observers but in Terror we become the jurors pressing a button to record our verdict.

This opens up a big question: whether we go to the theatre to be passive spectators or part of an interactive experience. A friend reacted with dismay when I told her the premise of Terror. Her point was that she goes to the theatre seeking emotional and intellectual engagement rather than active participation; and I have some sympathy with her point of view. I’ve no wish to see the Terror principle widely applied, so that we have to decide whether or not Falstaff should be rejected at the end of Henry IV Part Two, whether Nora is right to walk out on her husband at the climax of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House or whether Salieri really was guilty of Mozart’s death in Amadeus. Some issues are best left unresolved.

Continue reading…

Read more: theguardian.com

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