Judgment Day

By Ödön von Horváth

A gripping plot, compelling characters, deceit, melodrama, metaphysics, justice, ethical responsibility—Ödön von Horváth’s thrilling 1937 drama Judgment Day was the runaway hit of London’s fall 2009 season. Thomas, an unhappily married stationmaster in a small town, causes a fatal train crash when he allows a flirtatious young woman to distract him from his duties. The girl perjures herself to defend him, and support for her lie poisons the town, drawing everyone deeper into a moral abyss.

Ödön von Horváth produced a body of work that bore witness to the callous and petty nature of everyday life under fascism. Pointing out the dangers inherent in the political situation of the day, he was forced to flee Berlin for Vienna after Hitler’s ascent to power. When the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, von Horváth left for Paris, only to be killed that same year (when he was only 36) by a falling tree branch.

Directed by Caitriona McLaughlin, the play chillingly captures the story of what has been called “the petty prejudices and rancorous suspicions of an era of epic mean-mindedness.”

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