It’s the early 1930s. Adam von Trott zu Solz (Linus Ubl) has just been awarded one of the only two German Rhodes Scholarships. Whilst reading PPE at Balliol College, he watches the rise of the National Socialists from afar and decides to leave his beloved Oxford. After graduating, he travels back to Germany to embark on a mission that will eventually cost him his life.
By no means a supporter of the fascist regime, he joins the Department of Foreign Affairs to convince both the Allies and Nazis that peace is the only solution.
It is in this responsibility that he returns to Oxford one last time in the early 1940s. In his quest to find support from the most influential British figures of the time, he finds himself in the office of Maurice Bowra (Jonnie Griffiths). But Bowra has lost all trust, and accuses him of collaborating with the regime and demanding he disappear at once. Disillusioned and desperate, Trott zu Solz returns to Germany.
It is during these days that he makes the acquaintance of Claus Graf von Stauffenberg, the iconic general and war hero with great influence in Berlin. In what came to be known as the ‘July Plot’, they decide to assassinate Hitler. With determined gestures and strong convictions, Gene Zinngrebe presents a man whose only regret is that he “didn’t kill the monster any earlier”. But how far can your convictions carry you, if one wrong word could cost you your life?
The July Plot eventually missed its target by no more than 13 minutes.
This year’s German play spins this intriguing web of lies and friendship between a group of friends drawn together by a common enemy. Both the great costumes and the mix of historical sound recordings and short visual excerpts from the trials liven up this quite weighty production. With English subtitles for the few German passages, this play makes the experience authentic.
Especially emotional was the opening night in the presence of both playwright Bernard Adam and the daughter of the protagonist, Verena von Trott zu Solz, who had come to see the city her father had loved.
Nevertheless, some of the characters remain quite shallow; perhaps the actors were juggling too many lines to focus on expressing the emotions that moved their characters. The British characters were, however, exceptionally great. Oxford don Maurice Bowra (Jonnie Griffiths), Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden (George Robarts) and George Bell (Sam Shepburn) are all portrayed with great wit and British charm. Their eloquence lightens up the sinister atmosphere in Nuffield’s Chapel.
If I had to criticise this production, I would say that it seemed too lengthy. It was almost as if they wanted to tell us so much more about these people, whom we never thought existed, about those individuals with such thorough convictions that they were willing to stand up for what they believed was the right thing, even if it eventually cost them their lives