Theatre Review: Normal, 18 November, Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh

18 Nov

Atonal, interfering and often distracting fairground music sets the scene at Bedlam Theatre’s production of Anthony Neilson’s Normal.

Against this frenetic wall of sound lawyer Justus Wehner starts to unfold the case of his client Peter Kurten, the Dusseldorf Ripper. However, diffident and unsettled from the start, Dr Wehner accounts for his own failings to make sense of the trial, looking back on it with the apologia, “but I knew little of life and less of love.”

Normal charts the progression of the disturbing relationship between the young lawyer and his client. Initially Wehner is presented with the case as a “gift” on which to try his might and cut his teeth. At first his task seems simple. The Ripper’s guilt is irrefutable and Wehner need solely set about proving his inevitable insanity.

But, as Kurten reveals ever more of his abusive and dysfunctional childhood, suspect becomes prosecutor firing increasingly more intimate questions at his lawyer and the stark monochrome setting becomes all that is left of the simplistic society Wehner had put his trust in where good and evil are binary opposites, and where “mummy must love daddy.”

The Ripper’s tale of deliberate and calculated multiple homicide serves to make a mockery of Wehner’s upbringing, value system and two-tone view of morality, dragging him reluctantly to an understanding of his client’s ecstasy in bloodshed.

A magnificent script is skillfully realised with emotive and provocative performances. Normal’s return to Edinburgh is worth the wait.

Review by Katie Smyth

Until Saturday – see Bedlam Theatre website for details.

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