The Trial of Malaparte

by Jens-Martin Eriksen

After „Winter at Dawn“ and Finland this was our third meeting with the Danish author Jens-Martin Eriksen.

The fringe ensemble presented his latest play, THE TRIAL OF MALAPARTE, to an audience for the first time. This first stage reading (see schedule) was provided by Jörg Scherzer, who translated the play.

The play, THE TRIAL OF MALAPARTE, is a farce: A governor-general, a writer and two SS officers make up the quartet, on whom Eriksen simulates cleverly and with sardonic wit the manipulation of human weaknesses. He ventures into the heart of darkness, finds Shakespeare-like plots, plays with ideas about God and Satan, and is relentless when it comes to the hubris of man. Vanity, cynicism and blind obedience finally come to light and one wonders what is actually free will. A tremendous game, a bad game.

Jens-Martin Eriksen describes the piece as follows: „We are at the court of Hitler’s governor-general in Poland, Hans Frank, who wants the famous Italian writer, Curzio Malaparte, to write his biography (Hans Frank’s Battle). This displeases Mr. Wächter, one of the two SS officers, a wannabe writer, who wants to thwart this biographical project. Wächter is interested in literature and in the governor-general’s library he finds a book in which Malaparte says he can prove that Hitler is a woman and a transvestite. This leads to the establishment of an improvised People’s Court, which opens up a lawsuit against Malaparte. The Italian author, however, is too smart to fall into Wächter’s trap and withdraws himself from him by stating crazy insults – not least because Hans Frank plays the judge in this small play within the play. […]“

After the acquittal Malaparte takes revenge on the two SS officers. He conspires with the governor-general to stage a play that will help test the obedience and loyalty of the two SS men towards the Nazi regime and Hitler. It is a paradoxical repeat of the famous Stanley-Milgram-experiment. The two ill-fated SS officers enthusiastically prove exactly what Malaparte imputes them of: that they are not loyal to their Führer and therefore they are potential traitors and resisters. […]

A few years later, along with the Italian author, we finally meet the war criminal, Hans Frank, in the Nuremberg prison, where he ponders whether or not life is a dream from which we cannot wake up – and if we, as mythological figures, could be chosen to repeat the myth of the eternal battle between Satan and God. He asks himself whether or not some of us – like governor-general himself – have been assigned, from the outset, the roles of the devil’s angels in the world drama.

Premiere January 27, 2012 theaterimballsaal, Bonn

THE TRIAL OF MALAPARTE is funded by the City of Bonn, the Ministry of Family, Children, Youth, Culture and Sport of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Danish Art Council.