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The Investigation

As gripping as it was horrifying

    The wanton cruelty and depravity that reigned in the Auschwitz concentration camp is detailed with savage realism in Peter Weiss's three-hour script, which the University of Birmingham's 3Bugs Fringe Theatre have pared down to an hour in Rebecca Targett's unflinching documentary drama.

    Combining intense physical theatre with contemporary dance, Kate Baiden imparts a vigour and a solemnity to the unsparing testimony recorded from the most extensive trial of Holocaust perpetrators, conducted in Frankfurt in the 1960s.

    It is recreated here with a score by Patrick Neil Doyle, whose father is the twice Oscar-nominated composer Patrick Doyle.

    The ensemble, presided over by Ken Thomson's incredulous judge and a disputatious prosecution and defence, play both the witnesses and the defendants.

    In one scene, half of the 10-strong cast scribble furiously with chalk on a blackboard as elaborate calculations are made in court of the numbers murdered in the Holocaust, while in another they mock the clumsy walk of one of the sadistic Nazi guards, as he denies his crimes to the judge, before they fall to the ground, back-stage, dead.

    The acting, while not stellar, was never less than totally committed and full of passion. And although the play had to contend with a ceiling thudding from a trampoline used in an acrobatic performance in the venue above of "La Putyka" - the 2009 Czech production of the year, according to the Zoo's programme notes - it was nonetheless as gripping as it was horrifying.

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