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The Theatreguide.London Review

All Our Children
Jermyn Street Theatre  Spring 2017

 There is something troubling the urbane Dr Victor Franz (Colin Tierney) in Stephen Unwin’s play All Our Children, set in early 1941 Germany.

Dr. Franz is the fictional character at the centre of a story about the State organised killing of children deemed handicapped or disabled.

He heads a clinic for young people who fall into this category and for three months has been signing lists for the transportation and involuntary euthanasia of many of them.

It is no wonder he has had a sleepless night sitting by the fire.

In the day that follows he will have a series of arguments with people that will clarify his attitude to the killings and give us an insight into the way the regime tried to justify its crimes.

There will be claims that range from the argument that it is an attempt to reduce suffering and relieve the pressure on the welfare budget to the idea that it is necessary to create a purer race.

His servant Martha (Rebecca Johnson) has heard government minister Joseph Goebbels speak about handicapped children and just thinks they are a burden that must worry their family. However when the clinic's administrator, the twenty-three year old SS officer Eric Schmidt (Edward Franklin), increasingly preys on her daughter she begins to change her views.

We never see any of the children but Franz does get an unexpected visit from a parent Frau Pabst (Lucy Speed) who initially brings gifts for the doctor and her child Stefan, a patient at the clinic, but later returns to confront the doctor when she suspects that patients are being killed.

The final visitor is Bishop Von Galen (David Yelland), a real figure who did in sermons object to the policy. The character is depicted as coming from an aristocratic background and having once welcomed the National Socialists till he realised they were corrupt.

Franz tries to present a compassionate case for the killings, and to soften the Bishop's mood with wine from the vineyard of the Bishop's relative. But the Bishop argues that what is happening is State-sponsored murder and points out that 50,000 children have been killed so far. He insists 'those who have power or access to those who have power...have a responsibility to protect those who do not.'

This play is performed by a strong cast, in particular Colin Tierney as Franz. The sequence of events it depicts can at times feel as if they are simply intended to illustrate particular points, but this doesn't prevent them being believable and sometimes quite moving. 

This is an important story about a terrible crime committed against children and a reminder that it can sometimes be necessary to defy a government in order to prevent the mistreatment of any particular group.

As one character in the play says, 'They are all our children.'

Keith Mckenna

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Review -  All Our Children - Jermyn Street Theatre 2017