Theatre Review - Nachtland

Jane Horrocks as Evamaria in Nachtland [ELLIE KURTTZ]

I loved Marius von Mayenburg’s play The Ugly One about vanity and the dangers of a conformist society which played at Park90 in 2017.

Set in modern-day Germany, von Mayenburg’s biting satire Nachtland (translated by Maja Zade) explores the legacy of Nazism and the rise of the new right.

Siblings Nicola (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) and Philipp (John Heffernan) are clearing out their late father’s house. They’re testy with one another as they direct their speech to the audience, each of them trying to control the narrative.

When they find an old painting stashed in the attic, things take an unexpected turn. The watercolour is a scene from 1920s Vienna and they believe it is an early work of Adolf Hitler.

Why would their father own such a painting? The question does not bother them for long and they engage the help of an expert, Evamaria (Jane Horrocks), to identify and value the artwork. But they have to come up with a convincing provenance for the painting. Suddenly it’s all right to imagine a family member being involved with the Fuhrer.

Philipp’s Jewish wife Judith (Jenna Augen) is appalled. She thinks they should burn it. But Evamaria quickly finds a buyer (Angus Wright) who, much to Nicola and Philipp’s delight, offers a substantial sum.

Will Judith throw a spanner in the works?

Nachtland is an invented German word, suggesting “a place of eternal darkness”. Von Mayenburg’s provocative morality tale shows how easy it is to step into the shadows when money is involved.

Anna Fleischle’s stunning design and Richard Howell’s lighting cleverly evoke a dilapidated house, subtly shifting its shape and form.

Masterfully directed by Patrick Marber, Nachtland doesn’t always coalesce as drama but offers plenty of food for thought.

Until April 20

Originally published by Westminster Extra