Premiering in Berlin in 2015, Ferdinand von Schirach’s interactive courtroom drama Terror has been staged in seven countries and aired on television networks across Europe. Now it’s running at the Lyric Hammersmith for London audiences to cast their verdict on the fate of Lars Koch, a fighter pilot who defies orders and makes the calamitous split-second decision that has complex and devastatingly contradictory implications.
Terror has a very interesting concept at its core, and although not wholly original or unexplored, it’s relevance in the current climate is strikingly significant, you can almost feel a thick air of sombreness in the room. However, this production relies on audience engagement, and unfortunately it fails to engage in an interesting and innovative way, and makes for a laborious experience, with inaccessible military and court jargon and a tedious flow of action. By its nature, it recounts experiences through character recollection and dialogue alone, but this is not the cause of its downfalls. The spaciousness and grandeur of the venue is not at all suitable for this play, and creates a sense of detachment between the action and the audience, heightened by the unforgiving lighting and unimaginative staging.
Emma Fielding and Forbes Masson give stand out performances, respectively playing the prosecuting and defence counsels. The prospect of killing 164 people to save 70,000 may seem like an obvious ethical decision, but Fielding’s character gives a strong and captivating argument to counteract any initial preconceptions. Exploring and debating the lawful and moral complexities of ‘a life for a life’ and ‘justifiable’ killing may feel problematic to address through theatre, but this play highlights the significance of drama as a medium to address and reflect on human predicaments. Although the narrative is compelling and provokes challenging and interesting philosophical ideas, the execution of Terror just does not do justice to its premise.