REVIEW: Democracy, Crucible

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THE prospect of well over two hours of post-war German politics might not count as a good night out for many.

Yet the brilliant mind and language of Michael Frayn – whose Sheffield season Democracy concludes – deem these re-imaged real events rather watchable.

In the returning directorial hands of Paul Miller (Hamlet) a well-chosen all-male cast more than maintain interest in a drama centred on the 1966 rise and ultimate demise of Chancellor Willy Brandt during a crucial unifying era for European politics.

There is something Shakespearean about their plotting, deception and posturing while telling a rapidly woven story aided by clever time and geographical shifts managed by Miller’s smart use of lighting and space.

Patrick Drury is a solid, warm, haunted Brandt wrestling with his own past while trying to match the expectation of the people, though doesn’t really convince as the wine-loving womaniser suggested by the script.

Stance and echo magnify his speeches as his popularity surges and wanes, but like many leaders he ebbs in a tide of policy and the ambition of others while unwittingly feeding rapidly advanced personal aid Gunther Guillaume in his spying for East Germany. A compelling Aidan McArdle renders this slightly cartoonish, servile character far from the only one showing two faces in this slippery coalition.

Detail and gravitas are key in this reality-based foray into shifting loyalties and political and human complexity amid a wounded landscape seeking to heal a harrowing legacy. Richard Hope, David Mallinson and William Hoyland also shine in Democracy, until March 31.