York Theatre Royal Donald Freed's association with York Theatre Royal was a happy and fruitful one two years ago – so we should be eternally grateful that Damian Cruden, the artistic director of the theatre, has brought him back.
He returns with a restaging of a previous play, The White Crow, an emotionally powerful two-hander which sears itself on to the consciousness.
Subtitled Eichmann in Jerusalem, it is based on the true story of Adolf Eichmann, the "architect of the Holocaust". Eichmann's logistical expertise saw him become the organiser of the Nazi's plan for elimination of the Jewish population from Europe. He saw himself as a manager of train timetables.
After the war he escaped to Argentina and lived and worked there until he was captured by Mossad operatives in 1960 and tried in an Israeli court for war crimes. Freed puts us in the room in Jerusalem, 1960, where Eichmann is put under the spotlight by interrogator Dr Baum. One question circles the two hour play – Eichmann: architect of the Holocaust or bureaucrat following orders?
In asking the question over and over, the staggering levels underneath Freed's play reveal questions about war, collective responsibility, even the nature of humanity.
Eichmann is played by Rob Pickavance and the stunning French actress Sonia Petrovna takes the role of Dr Baum. A brilliant set design keeps us at arm's length from the action, with Eichmann and Baum inside a glass case.
The second act sees Cruden reveal a coup de theatre and the glass case is removed. As with Sarah Kane's Blasted, the action moving from arm's length into our laps, turns the spotlight on the audience and forces us to question our conscience.
If the Holocaust was humanity's darkest moment, then what blame lies with us? Petrovna's performance is so mutli-layered that she goes from interrogator to earth mother in a deep emotional journey and I finally "got" Rob Pickavance, an actor I have watched many times and never understood.
One of the most emotionally draining nights you can hope to have, this is an apotheosis of the power
To May 23.