Incident At Vichy ★★★★
This play couldn't have been staged in a better venue, as the King's Head is a lively affair which provides the antidote for the subject matter Incident at Vichy tackles well (and with brutal efficiency).
We see several men on stage (apparently it's eight but it felt like more), seated in a Police Station. Each is awaiting being seen by a member of authority for reasons yet unknown. The tension is palpable, the minutes and seconds mixed with majority silence, dragging as they await inspection. A young painter amongst them is the most vocal; firing off anxieties and questions a mile-a-minute and irritating the electrician seated nearby. They all want the same thing - to know why they are here - but it is interesting in the way each goes about gaining his respective freedom.
There is a businessman who is cool and collected, economical in his responses. He is seen first and allowed to leave almost immediately. The men are to be inspected by a Nazi professor for reasons which humanity has thankfully since evolved from. The rest do not enjoy the same treatment as the businessman.
There are simple sound effects in this play which work beautifully to add to the suspense - I still remember the inharmonious, jarring sound of the professor's door being closed after each man enters his office.
The play is not without hope; however, as an Austrian Prince also joins the ranks some time after. He maintains a good mixture of refined sensibilities and general awareness of each man's, and his own, situation. The prince's relationship with his primary antagonist, a psychiatrist, works well to unravel layer upon layer of contention. The unexpected result therefore works all the better.
There is a lot to this play which will be unsurprisingly open to interpretation apart from the theme of humanity and togetherness. It’s definitely there, no matter how buried under the stress of the situation. Lots of the characters are interesting and multifaceted, and it is clear each of the actors on stage are genuinely contributing to the overall riveting effect.
A universal play which I believe can be appreciated by all.