Goering’s Defence returns after sell-out shows in 2008, and we can only hope Ross Gurney-Randall will return next Fringe to again portray a man many would call a monster, but few could say they know much about.
Hermann Goering was Adolf Hitler’s second-in-command, and was one of the few high-ranking Nazis to be taken alive. With a chair and clever lighting, Gurney-Randall creates Goering’s last night before he is to be hanged, and the simple staging only magnifies the power of the performance. From the moment he walks on stage you cannot look away, and he maintains your absolute attention for eighty minutes. The play shifts from Goering in his cell to the Nuremberg Trials, with the play quoting exact transcripts from the trials to make sure historical accuracy is maintained. These sections break up the monologue, and also serve to shift towards a new area of Goering’s fascinating life.
Hermann Goering was a proud and patriotic man, and Gurney-Randall perfectly portrays someone who worked so hard to build Germany up from the ruins of the First World War, only to see it fall when Hitler’s full motives were revealed. While this is not meant to be a balanced play (see the title), the logic of Goering convinces you that he was no monster – just someone who was too loyal to a man he didn’t fully understand. The performance is full of power, both obvious and understated, and when Gurney-Randall reveals his eyes from beneath his brow, he almost dares you try and look away.
For a play where the end has been known for sixty-five years, the script manages to squeeze out some gallows humour. Gurney-Randall has been performing as Goering for years, and makes sure we see the creator of the Luftwaffe as an intelligent man who goes to his death knowing exactly what he was a part of. While you may not be able to defend his actions, you will leave with a better understanding of The Second World War, fascism and what happens to the losers of history.