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Youth Without God

“Engaging adaptation of nazi germany story”

One could do worse than turn to a classroom to find the microcosm of a society.

Christopher Hampton’s stage adaptation of Ödön von Horváth’s 1937 novel Youth Without God presumes as much: its story of a group of raucous 15-year-old boys and their idealistic teacher, who become embroiled in subversion, sabotage and murder, attempts to compass the moral landscape of Nazi Germany in 1935.

In his central performance as the unnamed teacher, Alex Waldmann portrays a man increasingly torn between integrity and expediency, though his amiable gentleness is perhaps overdone – he could have shown deeper signs of the surrounding chaos.

Alex Waldmann in Youth Without God. Photo: Tristram Kenton

His embittered pupils, whose internal tensions quickly erupt into violence, are brought to life by a harmonious ensemble, with particularly impressive renderings by Malcolm Cumming and Nicholas Nunn.

Justin Nardella’s spare set, lined with revolving chalkboards and scattered with chairs, provides an apt match for Stephanie Mohr’s intermittently abstract staging. Strengthened by shadowy lighting, this sombre world is at its most affecting when it foregrounds a fluid, disquieting choreography.

While the play’s first half offers a relatively layered snapshot of life in the pre-war Nazi era, its remainder makes much of a prolonged murder trial that rarely picks up steam.

The aphoristic bent of Hampton’s writing has the power to incite resonant questions about faith, responsibility and truth, but its contributions to a convoluted plot prove to be slim.

Now is a good time, however, to take heed of what Youth Without God has to remind us about a sick society and those complicit in it.

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Production Details
Production nameYouth Without God
VenueThe Coronet Theatre
StartsSeptember 19, 2019
EndsOctober 19, 2019
Running time2hrs 15mins
AdaptorChristopher Hampton
Book writerÖdön Von Horváth
DirectorStephanie Mohr
Set designerJustin Nardella
Costume designerJustin Nardella
Lighting designerJoshua Carr
Sound designerMike Winship
Casting directorSerena Hill
CastAlex Waldmann, Anna Munden, Brandon Ashford, Christopher Bowen, Clara Onyemere, David Beames, Finnian Garbutt, Malcolm Cumming, Nicholas Nunn, Owen Alun, Raymond Anum
TechnicalAlex Ramsden
Production managerAndy Mcdonald
Company stage managerEmma Smith
ProducerCoronet Theatre
VerdictEngaging, if occasionally heavy-handed, adaptation of Ödön von Horváth’s novel about pre-war Nazi Germany
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