★★★★ Review of Hannah and Martin – The dialogue is sharp, witty and fast-paced
The dialogue is sharp, witty and fast-paced” ★★★★
Hannah and Martin takes at its core, the true story of the secret affair between Hannah Arendt, the Jewish political theorist who fled from Germany in 1933, and Martin Heidegger, a philosopher, professor and member of the Nazi party. They first met when Heidegger was a married 36 year old, and Arendt was his eighteen year old student. Soon after they started an affair that lasted at least four years. The play uses this antithetical relationship to explore the boundaries between the personal and the political.
The play was devised and directed by actors Lineke Rijxman and Willem de Wolf, together with Joan Nederlof and is presented in Dutch with English subtitles. Rijxman and Wolf artfully flit between their on stage personas and the characters they play, bringing to life the theories of these philosophers. We are invited to a conversation between two colleagues in a contemporary setting, and then to an imagining of Arendt and Heidegger meeting as professor and student, and then again, after the war. The play is as much about Rijxman and Wolf’s own understandings and applications of the respective philosophers’ theories as it is about the relationship between the eponymous Hannah and Martin.
Despite the intellectual and serious concepts being debated, the opposing views of both characters make for many comic moments, usually when Wolf’s racial insensitivity, resoluteness in his convictions and eagerness to re-enact intimate scenes are juxtaposed with Rijxman’s earnestness and dismissal. A stand-out scene is when Rijxman assumes the role of Adolf Eichmann whilst footage of his trial is played on a television screen within the modular, beech wood set designed by X+L. Eichmann is presented not as a psychopathic monster, but a man who followed the law, concerned with his position within the party far more than the atrocities he was orchestrating. Rijxman’s portrayal emphasises one of Arendt’s most enduring thoughts on the ‘banality of evil’, and you can’t help but wonder whether her views were also impacted by someone she knew, perhaps more intimately, whose own actions she needed to comprehend.
There is no risk of thoughtlessly watching this play. The dialogue is sharp, witty and fast-paced, especially considering the complex subject matter. Both Rijxman and Wolf give natural performances and their chemistry is utterly enjoyable to watch. The ending comes too soon and feels rushed, but whether you are motivated by the personal or the political, this play will have something for you.
Reviewed by Amber Woodward