Left – John Bell and John Gaden. Cover – John Bell. Photos – Prudence Upton
The complete destruction of Paris, the annihilation of the arrondissements, and the slaughter of its citizens. Such are the stakes in Cyril Gely’s trim, taught and terrifying play, Diplomacy.
Nearly three quarters of a century ago, the German military governor of Paris, Dietrich von Choltitz, was ordered to blow up Paris by a hateful Hitler. The Normandy invasion by the Allies had taken place weeks before and the Allies were advancing on Paris at a pace. A furious Fuhrer, a deranged despot, dictated that the French capital be laid waste, razed to rubble, its river banks breached causing deadly inundation.
In an effort to curtail this wanton, wilful destruction, Swedish diplomat, Raoul Nordling meets with the General, in a cat and mouse conversation of argument and counter argument.
John Gaden is acute, astute and stage craftily absolute as Raoul Nordling, sympathising, empathising and recognising his nemesis’ dilemma. Gaden gives the diplomat an impish quality that goes some way in making the General see reason in what he perceives as an act of treason.
John Bell as Choltitz has all the bearing of a military man after decades of playing kings and soldiers, combined with a world weariness and the disappointment of a career soldier whose belief in his commander in chief has depleted. “I voted for Hitler because he was going to make Germany great again.” Oh, how that statement rippled and resonated through the audience!
Genevieve Lemon plays a fussy Frau Mayer, Choltitz’s aide de camp, more like a Mutti than a military attache, James Lugton is solid as the architect turned demolition man, Ebernach, and Joseph Raggatt impresses as young soldier and Choltitz loyalist, Hans Brensdorf. Michael Scott-Mitchell's set is simple but striking, an enormous map of Paris, the city in peril, the backdrop, desk and chairs as functioning props. Genevieve Graham's costumes garb the gabfesters in a sense of authenticity.
The draw-card of seeing the two venerable thesps, Bell and Gaden in mass debate about war, honour, duty and family has already proved irresistible – the season is sold out. A return season will be announced shortly for 2019, followed by a national tour, venues still to be confirmed.
Ensemble Theatre presents
by Cyril Gely | translated and adapted by Julie Rose
Director John Bell
Venue: Ensemble Theatre | 78 McDougall St, Kirribilli, NSW
Dates: 23 March – 28 April 2018
Tickets: $43 – $73
Bookings: 02 9929 0644 | ensemble.com.au