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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The First to Go

© Mark Fisher
Published in The Guardian
Three stars
Actor/playwright Nabil Shaban's play about Hitler's treatment of people with disabilities risks the charge of stating the obvious. Obviously, the Nazis were a bad lot. And obviously, the innocent die in the end. State agents repeat terrible truths about fascist philosophy while their intended victims cower in fear. But there are three aspects of this long evening that make it more engaging than you might expect.

The first is on the level of education. It does us no harm to be reminded of the cruel logic of a politics based on racial superiority, nor to see the banality of evil - in this case, the daily justifications of a medical profession working in an atmosphere of intimidation. Shaban points out it was the disabled who were "the first to go", and it was their use as human guinea pigs that put German scientists at the forefront of medical knowledge. Today's debates about medical ethics need to be tempered by this memory.

The second aspect is about the definition of disability. Shaban makes much of the irony of Goebbels, a man with a club foot, pursuing a policy against "inferior" human beings while trying to distinguish between those who were disabled from birth and those whose disability was acquired. The play makes it clear that the distinction is a philosophical one. The experience of disability does not depend on whether you are war-wounded or have an inherited condition. It could affect any of us.

Third is Peter Clerke's production for Benchtours, which breaks a potentially unwieldy script into a series of neat vignettes. Yes, they die in the end - and with a melodramatic flourish - but the route is not always so obvious.

· At the Tron, Glasgow (0141-552 4267), from Thursday until Saturday. Then touring.

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