The Trial of Hermann Ethe, Greenside@Nicholson Square, Review

Edinburgh Festival review
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Louche Theatre
John Edwards (Hermann Ethe), Sian Taylor (Harriet Ethe), Alex Neil (Albert Lawrence), Paula Gallagher/ Emma Sims (Mair and Bethan alternate performances)
Tom Francis (Play-wright), Harry Durnall (Director& Designer), Jim Vale (Scenic Artist) Caroline Clarke (Wardrobe)
Running time

No courtroom drama, but a true life trial.

Welsh theatre company Louche Theatre is back at the Fringe with a dramatization of a true story of a vibrant 70 year old German professor of Oriental studies who lives a mildly bohemian life in tight laced Aberystwyth with his second wife Harriet. As World War One starts to take a grip on Europe, deep suspicions about anyone of German descent develop in the UK where Ethe has made his home for over 40 years. Hermann and Harriet are reluctantly driven from Wales to find refuge with relatives of Harriet in her native England where Hermann goes in to decline.

The play is acted out before an economical set whose backdrop takes the form of a triangular structure holding painted scenes of the shingly shore of Aberystwyth with dark and ominous clouds; a tram on a Reading street and the Clifton suspension bridge – all the places that the couple lived in. There is too much telling and not enough showing which makes for a prosaic and rather stilted, old fashioned piece of theatre that is for the most part too stiffly acted. There are too many gaps between the scenes that even with the apt accompaniment of Elgar’s cello concerto that was written as a requiem for WW1 seem interminable.

The maids bring some liveliness as their gossipy chat provides some narration like how Ethe was surely a spy as his desk was covered in paper with nothing but ‘squigly lines’ that had to be code and how was it that someone who was so skilled in languages ‘never learned a word of Welsh’. But they really should have been told how to fold sheets properly!

This sad tale of an erudite man sadly reduced to a dependant childish state because of persecution is a reminder of how easily humans find reasons to rat pack the ‘other’and told at a time when immigration is a worldwide issue, but Louche Theatre is capable of more than this.

Monday 10th August until Saturday 15th August at 2.55pm