Daily Archives: May 27, 2008

The First To Go


JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE FIRST TO GO (Benchtours at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh) for The Scotsman 27.5.08

3 stars ***

THERE’S NO DOUBT about the huge significance of the subject tackled in this new play by Nabil Shaban, more than ten years in the making, but still – it seems – something of a work in progress.   Set in Germany during the Second World War,  and now given a first production by the Edinburgh-based Benchtours company, the play centres on a group of disabled characters living in a care home at a time when the Nazi regime was about to step up its extermination programme against the disabled and infirm.  The play’s blazing purpose is to expose some of the horror of this relatively little-known aspect of the holocaust; it also casts a cold eye on the slowly corrupting ideas – some of them frighteningly familiar – which led so many doctors and scientists to co-operate with the programme.

It would be wrong to imply that The First To Go is a fully realised piece of drama.  It contains too much anger and too much information to flow easily as narrative.  Its theatrical approach is often flat-footed and static; and Shaban’s chatty writing style could never be accused of elegance.  Peter Clerke’s production, though, features some truly commanding performances, notably from Nabil Shaban, Robyn Hunt and Alan Clay as the patients, and Cerrie Burnell as their narrator and nurse.  And Benchtours, who lost funding in the last round of Scottish Arts Council decisions, can rest assured that if this is their final show, it’s one in which they can take some pride.