Previewed 15 January 2015, Opened 26 January 2015, Closed 14 March 2015 at the Haymarket Theatre Royal in London
Mark Hayhurst's new play Taken at Midnight in London starring Penelope Wilton for a strictly limited eight week season - a transfer from the Chichester Festival Theatre.
The unquestionable love of a mother for her son is put centre stage in this study of the horrors of pre-war Nazi Germany. Irmgard, the mother of celebrated German Jewish lawyer Hans Litten. Fearless and indomitable, she confronts his captors at enormous personal risk to fight for his release against the seemingly impossible might of the Nazi regime.
The cast for Taken at Midnight in London features Penelope Wilton as 'Irmgard', Martin Hutson as 'Hans Litten' and Allan Corduner as 'Franz Litten' with Pip Donaghy, Mike Grady, John Light, David Yelland, Marc Antolin, Christopher Hogben and Dermont McLaughlin. This production, which transfers to the West End following a season at the Chichester Festival Theatre's Minerva Theatre in 2014, is directed by Jonathan Church with designs by Robert Jones, lighting by Tim Mitchell, sound by Mike Walker and music by Matthew Scott. Penelope Wilton returns to the London stage for the first time since playing the role of 'Gertrude' opposite Jude Law as 'Hamlet' in Kenneth Branagh's production of Hamlet at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2009. Her other West End credits include playing the title role of 'Vita Sackville-West' in Eileen Atkins' play Vita and Virginia at the Ambassadors Theatre in 1993.
When this production transferred to the West End's Haymarket Theatre in January 2015 Dominic Maxwell in the Times said that "this gripping new play about the Nazi regime is a welcome arrival in the West End... Penelope Wilton is magnificent as Irmgard Litten. And while Jonathan Church's stark, stylish production shows us the brutality and doublespeak we expect, it also boasts characters of surprising and memorable complexity." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail highlighted that "Mark Hayhurst’s play, first seen recently in Chichester, is a noble addition to the West End." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph ask: "If it's any good, how will a studio show that played to under 300 people cope with the leap to a huge old playhouse that can seat over 800?" He answered: "As a last–minute experiment, I decided to sit right at the back of the stalls. To my immense surprise, I was as gripped as if I had been in the frontrow, despite the added distancing effect of Robert Jones's monumental, farreceding set. There's something about the inspiring heroism of this tale, and the way it's told, that holds you spellbound." Neil Norman in the Daily Express noted how, "trailing clouds of praise from Chichester, Mark Hayhurst's debut play sits well on the stage of the Haymarket Theatre Royal."
When this production opened at the Chichester Festival Theatre's Minerva Theatre in October 2014 Michael Billington in the Guardian hailed it as being "a sober, gripping drama... Mark Hayhurst has the intelligence to highlight the complexity of the characters, without diminishing the brutality of the Nazi regime from its beginnings... this is an informative and deeply engrossing play about the high price paid for resisting tyranny." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail described it as being "a history lesson charting the brutal rise of Nazism... it is sobering and salutary stuff, but be prepared for a marathon of indignation." Sam Marlowe in the Times explained Hans Litten's "story is told here by his mother, Irmgard. In a lesser staging, the commentary device of her intermittent monologues might seem dramatically weak. But Jonathan Church's direction is so sharply focused, and the acting so rigorous, that the piece acquires powerful precision... Intensely absorbing." Jane Shilling in the Daily Telegraph thought that "Penelope Wilton as Irmgard deploys her habitual manner – of a formidable gentlewoman who has just won second prize in a Women's Institute competition for the best Victoria sponge – to brilliant effect." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard praised it as being a "sombre, well-crafted and important new play," adding that Penelope Wilton "is unsurpassed for the manner in which she can present an unruffled exterior that nonetheless suggests a maelstrom of conflicting emotion underneath."
"Penelope Wilton's clever, controlled, courageous, commanding Irmgard Litten sets the scene. It's Berlin, 1933; the Nazis are in power; her lawyer son Hans has been arrested. His crime? Two years earlier he had dared call Hitler as a star witness in the trial of some murderous brownshirts. Now the Fuhrer wants revenge. Cut to Hans in a cell in Sonnenburg concentration camp, beaten and brutalised, physically broken but mentally as bitingly sardonic as ever. Mark Hayhurst's harrowing play follows Irmgard's heroic efforts to save her son. Her approach is 'patient and objectionable'. Elegant and eloquent, she has the confidence that comes from being 'a woman of some status in Germany'... And in Wilton's remarkable portrait, her devotion to Hans that makes her eyes flash and skin glow... Tim Mitchell's lighting powerfully ignites Jonathan Church's sombre, well-staged production. Somewhat shorter would have made it sharper, but Wilton blazes, beacon-like, an inspiration." The Mail on Sunday
"The play focuses not so much on Martin Hutson's imprisoned Hans Litten, but on the stubborn efforts of his mother, Irmgard, to get him released. Any sense of entitlement soon fades, and her still, resolute presence masks a vast well of pain, eloquently expressed by Penelope Wilton. Iron control wrestles with desperation in a profoundly moving performance. Jonathan Church's restrained production avoids the usual Nazi cliches, while the bleak, angled walls of Robert Jones's set add to the nightmarish atmosphere." The Sunday Times
The play Taken at Midnight in London at the Theatre Royal Haymarket Theatre with previewed from 15 January 2015, opened on 26 January 2015 and closed on 14 March 2015.