Sommer 14 – A Dance Of Death

by Rolf Hochhuth

5 August - 30 August 2014

“Wars do not break out, they are not brokered or declared as is always written. They are brought about by those who desire them.”

The UK premiere and the World Premiere in English

★★★★ Four stars, Everything Theatre

Commemorating the centenary of the start of the First World War…

Commissioned by the Finborough Theatre from Cerberus Theatre, the UK premiere and the English world premiere of controversial German playwright Rolf Hochhuth’s Sommer 14 – A Dance of Death in a brand new translation.

In June 1914, Europe was enjoying unprecedented peace and prosperity.

Little over a month later, the world was at war – and only a handful of people knew it was happening.

Inspired by the medieval mystery plays Sommer 14 – A Dance of Death is an epic telling from a German and European perspective of the world’s descent into war. Employing the character of Death as a guide, the play uses the classic Danse Macabre structure of a series of searing vignettes to illuminate the people and the events that led up to the outbreak of the First World War.

“The dead are amongst us, they are inside us. They demand of us that we answer for our crimes.”

At the turn of the twentieth century, Germany was the cultural and economic envy of the continent – until Kaiser Wilhelm II and Admiral Tirpitz massively expand the German Navy and spark an arms race with Great Britain.

At the same time, leaders in Vienna and Berlin are convinced that a quick pre-emptive war is the safest way to deal with the military might of Russia and France.

Whilst King Edward VII repeatedly warns Austria’s aged emperor of Germany’s dangerous predilection for playing soldiers, British First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill invokes a plan to not-so-secretly arm the ocean liner Lusitania, so that it and its many American passengers are a target for German submarines.

In Paris in March 1914, the war-hungry Editor of French newspaper Le Figaro is murdered by the wife of the pacifist Minister of Finance. In Berlin in May 1914, German Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg plants information in the press that Great Britain plans to attack Germany as soon as it can decide a date.

Even scientific reason is distorted by the fog of war as the German Jew Fritz Haber – torn between duty to his country and the pleas of his wife – becomes the father of chemical warfare.

But, ultimately, it is a twenty year old student, Gavrilo Princip, who provides the spark that changes the world forever…

This latest work from Rolf Hochhuth (following the Finborough Theatre’s acclaimed productions of two previous works by Rolf Hochhuth – Soldiers and The Representative ) Sommer 14 – A Dance with Death is a hugely ambitious epic vision of the Great War from one of Europe’s most acclaimed – and most controversial – dramatists.

About The Playwright Rolf Hochhuth

Playwright Rolf Hochhuth was born in West Germany in 1931. Rolf Hochhuth’s provocative first drama, Der Stellvertreter. Ein christliches Trauerspiel (The Deputy, a Christian tragedy), also known as The Representative) (1963), accuses Pope Pius XII and the Roman Catholic clergy of tolerating Nazi crimes against the Jews. It received productions worldwide and caused great controversy, as well as recently being adapted for the film Amen. It was produced at the Finborough Theatre in 2006. His second play, Soldiers (1967), initially banned in England, received its world premiere in Berlin in 1967, and received its first UK revival at the Finborough Theatre in 2004. It has also received acclaimed productions from Toronto to Melbourne. Later works include Guerrillas (1970), The Midwife (1972), The Survivor (1981) and the film A Love in Germany (1984).

About The Translator Gwynne Edwards

Translator Gwynne Edwards has prepared a new free adaptation of the play, from a literal translation by Jennifer Bakst. Gwynne Edwards is a specialist in Spanish theatre and cinema and, until recently, Professor of Spanish at the University of Aberystwyth, Wales. He has also translated and adapted more than forty plays from Spanish, French and Italian, many of which have been staged at major theatres in Britain and the United States. He has published three collections of Lorca's plays with Methuen Drama, and also collections of seventeenth–century Spanish and contemporary Spanish–American plays, together with adaptations from the correspondence and prose writings of Dylan Thomas. His books include Lorca: The Theatre Beneath the Sand, Lorca: Living in the Theatre, Dramatists in Perspective: Spanish Theatre in the Twentieth Century, The Discreet Art of Luis Buñuel and Almodóvar: Labyrinths of Passion.

About The Director Christopher Loscher

Director Christopher Loscher is currently Artistic Director of Cerberus Theatre. Theatre as director includes Count Oederland (Arcola Theatre), Portrait of a Young Man, possibly an Arab (V&A Museum), Holding Hands at Paschendale (sic)(White Bear Theatre) and The Police (BAC). Assistant Direction includes assisting on The Face of Beauty (78th Street Theatre Lab, New York City) and Stephen Jeffries’ Carmen 36’ (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). He co–founded Cerberus Theatre, a theatre company that produces new writing, new translations and reinventions of classic texts.

The Great War 100 Series

THEGREATWAR100 series is a new occasional series of works to be presented by the Finborough Theatre from 2014 to 2018 to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Other productions include the professional world premiere of Ivor Novello's operetta Valley of Song in January 2014.

The Press on Playwright Rolf Hochhuth's Previous Productions at the Finborough Theatre

On Soldiers

Time Out and The Times Critics' Choice

"This is concentrated theatre and highly recommended." John Nathan, Jewish Chronicle

"Kenneth Tynan’s original 1968 production of Soldiers about the British blanket bombing of German cities during the Second World War caused such outrage that it is surprising to discover in this first ever UK revival just how reasonable and well balanced the play actually is...a gripping, stimulating evening." Colin Shearman, The Stage

"Dramatic dynamite ...In London’s highly politicised theatrical climate, John Terry’s mature, thought provoking production...this intelligent and ambitious play." Rachel Halliburton, Time Out

"You have to salute the bravery of Finborough supremo Neil McPherson for giving this difficult play its first London revival since the 1960s " Aleks Sierz, What’s On in London

"Rolf Hochhuth’s “Soldiers” caused an almighty stink back in 1967: disruptive rows at the National Theatre, fierce debates on television, a ban by the Lord Chamberlain leading to a delayed West End production. Seeing it again now makes one almost nostalgic for an era when political theatre could make front–page news. ...This is good theatre precisely because it offers genuine dialectical debate. It also has an obvious relevance to today." Michael Billington, The Guardian

"The deft handling of a clear–cut political issue, dealt with in such a blatantly confrontational manner, is terrifically gripping and makes for great theatre." Tom Ogg, Culture Wars

“Much better written than current political plays" Rhoda Koenig, Evening Standard

On The Representative

One of the top five shows in London – The Independent

★★★★ Four Stars Time Out

“The play is a work of such immense scope and power that it becomes one of those works which cannot be compared to anything: they demand that other works be compared to them” Bernard Levin, The Daily Mail on the original production

“This is a play [with] greater moral scope and polemical content than a contemporary audience is used to.” Caroline McGinn, Time Out

“A thoughtful and thought–provoking piece of theatre” Alistair Smith, The Stage

“This is a magnificent, mammoth, must–see drama…A terrific piece of theatre.” Timothy Ramsden,

“Both engaging and thought provoking” Mike Williams, Vanguard

"An admirably incisive and complex study in the ethics of politics...A profound examination of the limits of moral responsibility" Robert Hanks, The Independent

“Kate Wasserberg’s production…reveals the power…of Hochhuth’s style of righteous documentary drama. Like Soldiers, The Representative is a powerful polemic” Jonathan Caines, Church Times

The Press on Director Christopher Loscher

“Weird, subversive, grotesquely enjoyable.” The Guardian on Count Oederland

“Ever–resonant.” Time Out on Count Oederland

“In this excellent production by Cerberus, it’s impossible not to become emotionally involved.” The Stage on Holding Hands at Paschendale

“Intense and gripping. Highly recommended.” The Irish World on Holding Hands at Paschendale

The Press on Sommer 14

★★★★ Four stars, Everything Theatre

“Fringe productions don’t come much more ambitious than this: the English-language world premiere of a sprawling, epic 1990 drama by the German playwright Rolf Hochhuth, offering a grotesque depiction of the build-up to the First World War, drawing on the medieval allegory of the danse macabre.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“Always ready to surprise you, the Finborough presents a German play by the dramatist Rolf Hochhuth to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War. Rolf Hochhuth's plays have often raised controversy because of his provocative theses - The Representative and Soldiers come to mind.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“Amid the welter of shows about the First World War, Rolf Hochhuth's play is something of a rarity: an epic mix of history lesson, expressionist drama and Germanic Oh! What a Lovely War. Slimmed down in Gwynne Edwards's adaptation to 150 minutes, it also shows that the 83-year-old Hochhuth has lost none of his capacity for controversy.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Part theatre, part historical pageant, this translation offers an intriguing perspective on the nature and nurture of war.” Paul Vale, The Stage

“Another top-quality production from one of the best off-West End venues...It mixes multimedia and song, and is peppered with dark humour, creating an alienating and occasionally jarring experience.” Chelsey Pippin, Everything Theatre

“Devastating.” Daisy Bowie-Sell, Time Out

“Devastatingly effective.” Partially Obstructed View

“I found the play – being simultaneously premiered by the Berliner Ensemble – engrossing.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“This is a play crackling with portent. It pulses with a contagious energy and a sense of purpose.” Greg Wetherall, Bargain Theatreland

“Among recent events commemorating the Great War, Sommer 14 stands out as an outstanding and thought provoking addition.” Anne Dunhill, Independent Catholic News

“Challenging and thought-provoking.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“Phenomenal design and a stand-out leading performance.” Chelsey Pippin, Everything Theatre

“A very powerful and polemical play...A very fine production. Go and see it if you can.” Starcourse

“There is a pitiful contemporary resonance in the state of world affairs when watching Sommer 14. It is one that reminds you that whilst we might travelled far in terms of time, we would appear to have actually learnt very little, if anything at all.” Greg Wetherall, Bargain Theatreland

“Hochhuth offers a fascinating portrait of the inexorable march towards war: one especially good scene shows the German high command in August 1914 arguing heatedly over tactics.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“With its politically didactic tone and fleet, wry, episodic scenes, each delivered under an explanatory heading, it is markedly Brechtian.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“Military wrangles and diplomatic manoeuvres are also elucidated with remarkable skill in Christopher Loscher's production, aided by Mike Lees's design, and there are outstanding performances, in a 12-strong cast, from Dean Bray as the ubiquitous Death and Tim Faulkner as a quietly authoritarian kaiser.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“The cast are all very good indeed.” Starcourse

“Christopher Loscher directs a strong cast.” Daisy Bowie-Sell, Time Out

“Edmund Dehn's seasoned professionalism and craft as Emperor Franz Joseph and Admiral von Tirpitz were very fine.” Starcourse

“Nick Danan’s savvy and conniving Winston Churchill.” Paul Vale, The Stage

“It is the minor characters, however, that feed the emotional core of this play, such as Sarah-Jayne Butler’s Lusitania victim and Andrea Hart as Clara Haber, the German scientist who commits suicide rather than further the development of chemical weapons.” Paul Vale, The Stage

“Sarah-Jayne Butler gives a particularly riveting and haunting performance as a victim of the sunken Lusitania.” Chelsey Pippin, Everything Theatre

“Sarah-Jayne Butler is excellent.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“Christopher Loscher’s lucid direction.” Paul Vale, The Stage

“Christopher Loscher’s bold, fluid production.” Sam Marlowe, The Times

“Christopher Loscher, with help from Mike Lees’ versatile design, maintains a brisk pace without sacrificing clarity and makes excellent use of projections.” Marianka Swain, The Arts Desk

“Director Christopher Loscher and production designer Mike Lees have imbued the tight constraints of their theatre stage with atmosphere and authenticity.” Greg Wetherall, Bargain Theatreland

“A sumptuous production design by Mike Lees.” Paul Vale, The Stage

“The production design by Mike Lees is impressive. The costumes are lavish and utterly authentic.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“The show’s biggest strength is its conceptualisation and design. I’m always amazed by the Finborough’s distinct ability to make me feel as if I’ve never been there before...all credit is due to the Finborough’s consistently high standard when it comes to the elements of design.” Chelsey Pippin, Everything Theatre

“The Finborough is one venue that never fails to deliver, and...Sommer 14: A Dance of Death is another on a long list of memorable and impressive shows to grace their intimate and versatile space.” Chelsey Pippin, Everything Theatre

“This was my first visit to the `small but mighty’ Finborough Theatre in Earls' Court, and I found its reputation for excellence richly deserved.” Anne Dunhill, Independent Catholic News

5 August - 30 August 2014

Tickets and Times

Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm (from second week of the run)
Sunday 3:00pm

2 hours and 20 minutes including one interval of fifteen minutes