In a small village in Austria, diligent station master Thomas Hudetz is a well respected member of the local community until flirtatious young Anna momentarily distracts him from his duties, causing a fatal train wreck for which the town needs to find the culprit. Written in 1937, the play is set loosely set in Nazi Germany and picks apart the disasters that occur when no one pays attention or takes responsibility for their actions
Hampton has previously adapted von Horvath’s Tales from the Vienna Woods, Faith Hope and Charity and Don Juan Comes Back from the War and, in his own original play, Tales from Hollywood, imagined von Horvath as a character who survived the tree branch and emigrated to Los Angeles.
This new staging of Judgment Day, the first in London in 20 years, is directed by James Macdonald, designed by Miriam Buether and stars Joseph Millson as Thomas Hudetz and Laura Donnelly as Anna. The large ensemble cast also features David Annen, Suzanne Burden, Tom Georgeson, Daniel Hawksford, Jack James and Sarah Woodward.
First night critics applauded a “stunning” production, which, through James Macdonald’s direction, successfully “unifies” the expressionistic and realistic elements of the play, building “atmospherically” – an adjective used by every critic – and exploring moral complexities with a disturbing mix of “sharp humour” and psychological intensity. Critics agreed that Joseph Millson gives a strong central performance, matched by the rest of the cast, and that Miriam Buether’s subtle and nuanced set is a significant factor in the evening’s success. Gratitude was paid by most to von Horváth’s champion, translator Christopher Hampton, for helping to bring a great writer’s work back to the London stage with this “wonderful restoration”.