THIS SAVAGE PARADE
This Savage Parade was first performed as The Savage Parade in Crewe on Sunday 17th March 1963.
Little is known about this one night performance in the Cheshire town or how it came to be produced there, but Shaffer recalls in his memoirs So What Did You Expect? that the theatre critic Bernard Levin had seen the play and gave it a somewhat unfavourable review.
Shaffer: "He really had no right to be there in his professional capacity of London theatre critic in the first place. He said that I had used the death of six million Jews merely to tell a detective story, and that this was impermissible."
On 16th January 1972 , The New York Times reported that there were talks about a new Shaffer play called This Savage Parade which was being considered by Sleuth producer Morton Gottlieb and Helen Bonfils. Gordon Davidson, a director working in Los Angeles and New York was set to direct. This project however never got further than the discussion stage.
In 1977 Shaffer spoke of the play to Cinemafantastique magazine who were running a special edition about The Wicker Man.
Shaffer: “Years ago I read a play on the Eichmann business called "The Savage Parade." And I wrote a play about a man being captured in Argentina, and during his trial, it turned out that he wasn't the sought-after criminal at all, that it was the man who had captured and brought him in. Then I kept fastening onto each of the rest of the characters in the play as the culprit, until we wound up with one of the judges, who was then hanged. Then, a report comes in that Eichmann or whoever had been captured somewhere else, with the idea that the whole thing would start over. Well, what do we make of that? It is a 'savage parade,' and it continues.”
Shaffer may have been talking about the various papers the publisher Victor Gollancz had written about Adolph Eichmann (Gollancz was the publisher of the Shaffer brothers second detective mystery novel Withered Murder.) Gollancz had written many letters and articles concerning the Eichmann trials, one of them “The Case Of Adolph Eichmann” was written in 1961. It may have been these papers and articles that inspired the story for Shaffer’s play.
On 1st September 1987, some 24 years after it's debut that night in Crewe, The King's Head Theatre Club in Islington staged a revised production of This Savage Parade.
Jonathan Myerson, who directed the production, told The Independent in July 2002: "I directed a long-forgotten Anthony Shaffer play, This Savage Parade, for the King's Head. It was an early work of his, a classic King's Head rediscovery in the making. The premise was good but the script was sophomoric, verging on corny. But Tony and I worked on the text; we went into rehearsal with a strong cast and polished the play to within an inch of its life. By the dress rehearsal, it was zinging.
And then came the first preview; the audience lapped it up - and I have never been so depressed in my life. I had lived tightly for six or seven weeks inside the world of the play and I believed in it, implicitly, utterly, unstoppably. And then I observed an audience watching it and I realised what tosh it was. Unworthy of any of the talents deployed on it, and yet we had successfully coated it with a thick and shiny coat of varnish. However much we try to avoid it, theatre is undeniably a two-way process - audiences teach actors just as much as actors teach audiences.”
In contrast to this, positive reports were made in the press. Mark Sanderson of Time Out wrote: "In Anthony Shaffer’s compelling play there are several coups de théâtre of a brilliance expected from the author of Sleuth...” and Charles Osborne wrote in The Daily Telegraph: "Shaffer has used the genre of the mystery thriller to present intelligent and serious argument about such vast concepts as justice, morality and faith ... This thoughtful and at times exciting play deserves to attract a wide audience.”
The printed copy of the script from Amber Lane Press quotes Milton Shulman's report in The London Evening Standard: "It is Shaffer's special gift that he can lead an audience up a dramatic cul-de-sac, and then surprise them by finding an ingenious exit no-one could suspect was there... he succeeds in gripping our attention with vice-like efficiency."
The action of the play takes place in a wine cellar in Tel Aviv in 1962.
Aquaba, Eban and Ophir are waiting patiently in the dimly lit wine cellar which has been laid out with a trestle table and chairs. They have had word via cable from Juvenal that their suspect has been positively identified and detained and transferred to them as arranged.
OPHIR: "I wish they would get here! I want to see him with my own eyes in this damn cellar.
EBAN: "You'll be his judge. Not his executioner."
The sound of approaching footsteps tells them that the time they have been waiting for has arrived. Entering the cellar is Cassellotti, (a guard) and De Solto (prisoner.) Aquaba calls in Elliul to take notes and Gurvey to act as Court Usher.
Aquaba reads a charge sheet to De Solto, revealing his real name as Rudolf Friedrich Bauer and being a Nazi SS officer between 1938 - 1945. He is accused of being a war criminal. De Solto pleads not guilty to the charges. His clothing is removed to reveal scars on his body which identify him positively as Bauer.
Aquaba, Eban and Ophir first question Cassellotti who tells them how he and others had been watching De Solto over time, noting his daily movements and his eventual arrest. He goes on to tell them how De Solto was moved secretly by plane out of the country and brought before the court.
The three judges then question De Solto but he denies any knowledge of Bauer. He tells them he was once a cattle farmer before working in a steel works. The judges say they have evidence against him and show a photograph of him in a Nazi SS uniform. De Solto admits that they are right and he is Bauer.
CASSELLOTTI: "I don't know why you are looking so miserable, senor Bauer.
The three judges question De Solto thoroughly about his life, from his school days to his work as a Nazi officer. He answers their questions and tells them why he was a supporter of Hitler's movement to create the perfect race. The three judges retire to discuss the verdict. When they return they ask De Solto if there's anything he'd like to add before they pass sentence. He says yes and surprises them by removing the scars from his body and telling them that he is in fact Stefan Juvenal - their agent in Argentina who was sent to find Bauer. He calls in Rudolf Friedrich Bauer.
Miguel enters the cellar and stands before them. The three judges ask him if he is Bauer and he tells them no - he is Miguel De Solto. The judges are now confused and turn to De Solto for an explanation. He asks them to be patient and to let him question Miguel and then their questions will be answered.
De Solto questions Miguel who denies being Bauer. He is stripped and the judges examine him for scars and find that he has the scars of Bauer. These scars are real and not faked as De Solto's had been. Satisfied that they now have their man, De Solto tells them to look closer at the man. This they do but are still sure they have the right man. De Solto demonstrates with a light how this man Miguel has faded numbers tattooed under a scar on his forearm. They know this means he was a prisoner from the concentration camps.
Miguel tells them how he was captured and sent to the gas chamber at Auschwitz. However, he was spared and was moved to a hut where he was well fed and looked after. He later learns that he is very similar in appearance to Bauer and was being kept as a replacement. They gave him operations to place the matching scars on his body and was released under a new name. He told them that the Germans knew the war was coming to an end and, with Miguel posing as Bauer, would be the one captured by the Allies while the real Bauer made his escape and would disappear.
The judges turn to De Solto and ask why this game when neither of them is Bauer? De Solto explains the real Bauer had set up Miguel to be captured and brought to trial. It was Bauer who had worked it all and put the wheels in motion. He also shocks them by adding that Bauer was in fact one of the three judges sitting in the room.
They soon come to realise that the real Bauer was in fact Aquaba. He stands up proud of who he is and what he's done and tells them that the Jews should look to him as a king. He shows no remorse for his actions and still believes in the Nazi way of rule.
After this harrowing outburst, he is sentenced to death by hanging and led out of the wine cellar. A few moments later the sound of a trap door opening echoes the room.