What about the judges, who effectively sentenced to death hundreds for purely political reasons?Screw the Looking Glass’s production of Abby Mann’s Judgement at Nuremberg followed the story of the trial of four important German judges who were responsible for sending to death political enemies of the Nazi regime. The courtroom drama explored the reasons for some of the atrocities committed during that time, and whether they could be justified.
The production aimed to make us sympathise with all of the characters in it at some time, and I feel it fully succeeded; skilfully allowing us to see the motives behind all their actions, and the humanity behind every character. It also very cleverly contrasted the political pressure the judges were under in Nazi Germany with that of the American judges by highlighting the similar pressures of the Cold War.It seemed a tall order to deliver such a complex script, and without such skilful acting this might have been impossible. However, although only students, these young actors’ performances felt far from amateur. They did full justice to the depth of the text they were performing, with clearly full awareness of all possible levels of meaning to the script. Those who were performing with accents did so very successfully – even with professional actors, adopted accents can become annoying and distracting, so it is rare to find such excellent ones within a student performance, which certainly added to the authenticity.The more challenging scenes, including one where Rudolph Peterson (James Colenutt) breaks down in court while being questioned about his experience of sterilisation, were also performed with tremendous ability, and all of the actors showed not only excellent talent, but also great promise. I would not be surprised to hear these names again in the future!
The production made use of the performance space ingeniously, with the auditorium set up like the seats in a court room – making us all feel very much included in the performance, and more deeply involved with the stories being performed in front of us. The set was adaptable and complex, and was suitably lavish for a court room; and the costumes were excellent and completely in keeping. The lighting was used to great effect, intensifying emotions where appropriate and helping with the fluid scene-changes. The play, though at times a little hard-going, had everything on its side and would be excellent for anyone interested in, not just the trials, but politics, rights or even simply what it is to be human.