Peter Kurten was a serial killer whose exploits in Weimar Germany inspired Fritz Lang's film M. Anthony Neilson's troublesome play sets out to investigate unflinchingly the mind of a killer who felt no qualms of any kind and who resolutely refused to be considered insane: in doing so, however, it sacrifices its own perspective on the issues involved. Jon Sotherton's Kurten is an articulate tempter whose naïve counsellor simply cannot comprehend his enormities, even in the light of his brutal upbringing.
However, it's one thing to say (even in graphic detail) he's depraved on account'a he's deprived: it's quite another to climax the play with almost ten minutes of pornographically violent murder. An attempted tie-in with the rise of Nazism is facile and perfunctory. These things wouldn't matter if the play weren't well put together and performed; its Expressionist polish makes it the more insidious. Highly accomplished, but equally highly questionable.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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