Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(4user reviews)
Terror, Lyric Hammersmith
© Tristram Kenton

In this gripping courtroom show, you are the jury

As gripping and as ridiculous as an episode of ‘Line of Duty’, ex-lawyer Ferdinand von Schirach’s global hit interactive show ‘Terror’ is clearly an in-no-way accurate representation of a jury trial.

More what you’d call ‘an entertainment’ than a courtroom drama, this faux trial in which we vote on the outcome is actually a bloody good shout for the Lyric and its boss Sean Holmes, who directs. Theatre can be ivory towered, but this is stuff that fans of procedural TV shows will surely lap up, and fits in nicely with the Lyric’s deft mix of artiness and accessibility.

In part that’s down to the play’s main gimmick. We are the (very large) jury, and we know that at the end we’ll be asked to vote in the murder trial of Lars Koch (Ashley Zhangazha), a jet fighter pilot who shot down a hijacked passenger jet in order to prevent it crashing into a stadium packed with 70,000 people. Exchanges between the judge (Tanya Moodie) and her court, that might seem hackneyed if we were more dispassionate, feel morally fraught when you’re spending the entire show working up to your vote.

It is of course waaay beyond the realm of possibility that a court case of this sort would be wrapped up in a couple of months, let alone a couple of pacy hours. For all the gravitas of Von Schirach’s text (translated by David Tushingham), everything here needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Nevertheless, it is good at exploring a complicated moral area. Emma Fielding’s icy prosecutor Nelson is excellent at mercilessly pressing the cold, stiff Koch on his moral relativism: would he have shot the plane down if his family had been on board? Can he honestly say he didn’t murder the 164 passengers? And it’s the same for us: there are two possible endings to the play, depending on how the audience vote, and verdicts have varied in productions across the globe, but ‘not guilty’ has dominated. Is this because it has the most compelling legal argument? Or because on a gut moral level we believe the pilot did the right thing, regardless of the law? At the very least, ‘Terror’ offers a corrective to notions of justice being blind.

What seals the deal is the cast. You could quite easily imagine this being done with second-tier actors, but Holmes has roped in some big hitters to combat the whiff of novelty. Moodie, in particular, is a towering actor whose air of total authority binds the night together.

Like an episode of ‘Line of Duty’, when it’s over, the urge to nitpick its many absurdities mounts. But while it lasts, it’s a thrill.

Event website: http://www.lyric.co.uk

Average User Rating

4.8 / 5

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What a great idea. A fictional trial that the audience get to witness and then vote on. What better a topic than terrorism. 

As soon as the play begins and you notice the German court motto spread over the doors into the court, you know you are in for a no nonsense kind of a play. The fake court room echoes that of a real one. The format is dry and specific and the language is to the point. What little humour there is comes purely from the quality of the performance and the characters are brilliantly portrayed. 

On trial for shooting down an aircraft that had been taken under terrorist control and that was thought to be on course for a football stadium but against military orders, is he guilty? It certainly makes you think. It can be gripping at times, very slow at others but, ultimately, the idea is an excellent one. I would have loved to have seen it in its native German and it would also be interesting if you could see how each audience voted retrospectively. It could do with more tweaking and it would be very interesting to see it done again for a completley different trial but, even as it is, it is still worth a watch. 


Put it this way - I went to see Terror on the hottest day of the year. In an un-air conditioned theatre. And yet I still had the most brilliant time. 

The story itself is so gripping, keeping you hooked for the entirety despite being set in one room, much of the action being static and the script based in fact. 

Perhaps what makes it so intriguing is that the play really forces yourself to question your morals. To ask yourself if you can truly pit one life against another? If any human has the right to play God. 

The interactivity is what makes this performance. It keeps you engaged throughout as you take on the responsibility of judge and juror.

Would highly recommend!


What makes this play so outstanding is not necessarily the acting, but rather the contents of the play itself - the intense and extreme relevance of the subject matter and themes which are unavoidably relevant to everyone. The set up of the play is simple - one room, a courtroom, with limited physicality required, rather the characters mostly remain seated for the duration, with only a few moments where the prosecution and defence counsel stand to deliver their closing statements or ask questions of the witnesses. And it works. It appears realistic and familiar to court room dramas.

The script has been translated from German, but the story has not been adapted to include names or places more familiar to the audience - it still works, because the plot is relevant across the globe, where this play has been touring since 2015.

No matter where you are based or your cultural background, the way that this play makes you think and examine the very morality of humankind is fascinating, because it is universal and it is something everyone can relate to. With the audience acting as the jury, it is down to us alone to decide the fate of the man stood on trial, charged with the murder of 164 people. After hearing all of the evidence and testimonies in the first act (which runs for about 85 minutes), the interval is the time to go and think about your verdict, which you provide in the second act (which lasts only 10 minutes) using a key pad. It's really interesting to look on the website at the way audiences have voted around the world and shows how political and social differences have an effect on the way the play turns out.

By being asked to examine and question my own morality, this play has stuck with me since I saw it last week. I can't actually stop thinking about it, questioning whether I made the right decision and why others voted differently to me. It is a conversation starter, a brain teaser and definitely a play to get as many of your peers to go and see with you just so you can stir up a conversation! I really can't recommend it more.


This play is brilliant and has the most interesting concept I've come across in a while: the audience is the jury, determining the fate of a German airforce officer who is charged with murder after shooting down a hijacked passenger plane, killing 175 people, in order to prevent it from flying into 70 000 people at a football stadium.

It's executed well- despite the static set and legal jargon (which is all explained as it would be to any jury), it never feels boring, in fact I found it all very interesting.

It's probably not for everyone but for me it

highlights the complexities of law in an engaging way. It puts you in a position that most people wouldn't be able to be in: being in a jury on a global-profile case. The actors are all totally convincing too so I was fully immersed and really enjoyed it.