“Enjoyable” isn’t a word that can be used to describe Conspiracy, which had its Scottish premiere this week. Adapted from Loring Mandel’s Emmy-winning screenplay of the same name, Conspiracy is a daring, sobering piece of theatre. In the style of Twelve Angry Men and its ilk, the story takes place in a single room over the course of a single afternoon, as fifteen high-ranking Nazi officials design what will come to be known as the Final Solution.
With simple staging and deft choreography director Robin Osman (RFT Theatre Company) guides us through the bureaucratic machinations by which the Jewish population of Europe were systematically turned from human beings into objects to be disposed of. The audience’s attention is whipped back and forth with changes in lighting and volume, and it was interesting to watch each individual character come to grips—or not—with the ramifications of the violence proposed, be they centre stage or on the sidelines.
Of the cast of sixteen a few performances particularly stand out: Chris Pearson’s Wilhelm Kritzinger, a character who feels himself being forced further and further from his own moral code, questionable as it may be, was especially compelling. Alexander Gray’s flustered bureaucrat Dr Stuckart plays admirably off the more militant faction across the table, and Ben Blow’s dry wit as Otto Hoffmann injected a moment of levity here and there. The knot at the centre of it all is the duo of Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann (Jonathan Whiteside and David Taylor, respectively). Taylor’s repressed, increasingly agitated Eichmann struck sparks off Whiteside’s Heydrich, who was chillingly calm, even jovial, from first to last.
Altogether, aside from one or two jarring costume mistakes and a mix of acting talent to be expected from such a large cast, Conspiracy is an ambitious project well pulled-off, with upsetting material sensitively handled. That being said, no punches are pulled: the actors play their parts to the hilt and I would strongly recommend that anyone sensitive to the material proceed with caution. This is not a play for the faint of heart.
Though there are no firm plans yet to stage Conspiracy again, the production was spearheaded by Edinburgh-based company RFT, who will be back at the Fringe in August with Those Worrisome Sleeps, a supernatural play by Ben Blow. Conspiracy was performed as part of Annexe Arts Hub’s Formation Theatre Festival, now in its second iteration