© James Hyland 1998-2021
"This play is dark, disturbing and difficult to watch. However, as a piece of theatre it excels in practically every single way. There’s a tendency for creatives who wear multiple hats to be a little bit precious about their work, but not Hyland, who handles the performance and direction of the piece with the necessary levels of professionalism and skill required. Formidable and physically imposing from the off, he delivers Höss’ horrific views with unwavering conviction and the style, variation and intonation of an accomplished public speaker. Whilst Shon has far less to say, his physicality is brilliantly, if heartbreakingly realised, as Könisberg’s pain and exhaustion virtually radiate from him. Within his few lines every word is an effort to choke out, and when he struggles to his feet at one point his legs tremble with the strain... Ultimately this is two actors, a table and a few props and yet the work itself is of such quality that it should be held up as an example of what can be achieved with so few trappings. But more than this, 'A Lesson From Auschwitz' is a forceful look back at how terrifyingly far an ideology can go. The fact it is delivered in real time and Höss’ unwavering, unshakeable belief in what he is doing, rationalising the utterly irrational, makes this piece all the more intensely horrifying. The audience leaves shaken and silent. For subject matter and content, as well as the aspect that there are moments of this play that you genuinely cannot bear to watch, it feels wrong to praise 'A Lesson From Auschwitz', but for construction, execution, skill, and a shocking reminder of humanity’s darkest moment, it is an exceptional piece of work and a vital reminder that something like this can never be allowed to happen again."
Rating: FIVE STARS
~Sophie Adnitt, BritishTheatre.com
"Both Michael Shon and James Hyland are simply brilliant in their respective roles and deserve the highest of applause for these powerful performances. It feels wrong to say I enjoyed this production, especially when considering how some parts were so hard to watch, yet I honestly believe this was one of the most powerful and most important pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen. This performance was dedicated to “all the victims of the Holocaust” and is the perfect reminder of how important it is to keep the horrific memories alive. Well done to Brother Wolf for such an astounding and significant production. We may try to push these images to the back of our minds, or may be focused on the horrors within today’s world but we should never forget the lessons history can teach us. This production is the perfect way to remember and to honour those who tragically lost their lives."
~Chloe Fry, Centre Stage
"The two actors playing the roles of victim and persecutor, Michael Shon and James Hyland, are in their contrasting ways, magnificent. The vast majority of the text is delivered by Hyland to us, his audience, in a mesmerically disturbing fashion; but Shon provides a powerful counterpoint of suffering throughout, all the more hard to stomach because it is so plausibly rendered, with every brief beseeching opportunity for passive resistance bravely taken... a powerfully realised drama that finds new angles on these events where so many have trod before... this easily portable drama should be seen up and down the land, whether in schools or elsewhere, not just as the most powerful refutation there could be of Holocaust denial (still very much with us), but also as a majestic statement of the power of theatre to bring to the surface the most unpalatable moral facts... this play reminds us that to live properly still requires the courage to believe in a shared humanity and willingness, if need be, to fight for it."
Rating: FIVE STARS
~Tim Hochstrasser, Plays To See
"Both performances here deserve recognition and considerable praise, though they certainly don't make for comfortable viewing - but such is the nature of the play's subject matter. James Hyland convinces admirably as a man who has totally absorbed a shocking and inhuman philosophy to the extent that he can countenance any deed, including mass murder on an incomprehensible scale. Though there are times when Höss seems manic, he is not insane or mentally deranged, but a man wholly assured of his purpose and duty, and intent on persuading (or forcing) others to follow his lead. At times, Mr Hyland's Höss is exceedingly scary, able to send uncomfortable shivers down one's spine and making us all feel awkwardly unsettled when addressing us directly. Michael Shon also ably convinces as the Jewish prisoner, grimly bloodied and already severely weakened at the start of the play... an important warning and lesson from a vile and shameful period of history - that we must be ever watchful for the emergence of such repulsive ideologies in the future and be prepared to fight against them."
~Peter Brown, ActDrop
"The performance, by just two actors, lasted about an hour and has to be one of the most disturbing I have witnessed in a long time... it increasingly felt as though we were complicit in [Rudolf Höss's] plans... The discomfort we felt however, was nothing compared to that of the actor playing Jewish prisoner Abraham Könisberg... I have to admit there were moments during the performance when I couldn't watch... Quite cleverly, Hyland predicted this with his speech telling us "not to look away..." With these little ploys one felt more and more bound up in his demonic plans... Productions like 'A Lesson from Auschwitz' play an important part in reminding us how close 'normal' people can come to being complicit in hideous atrocities and how we must always guard against it."
~Jeremy Wilton, Four Shires Magazine
"James Hyland's portrayal of Höss is frightening - a sadist and a manipulative bully who seems capable of any atrocity. His rhetoric style reminds me of Roland Freisler, a Nazi judge who completely perverted his office. Michael Shon impresses as Abraham Könisberg, a man who tries to keep his dignity in this hell. Directed, written and produced by James Hyland, this production should be seen by all - especially in the light of recent events."
~Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network
"James Hyland who plays "Höss" (as well as writing, directing and producing the piece) is superb as the sadistic commandant whilst giving us glimpses of the madness of the man... Michael Shon [who plays "Könisberg"] is totally believable in the part and the audience suffers along with him as he tries to fight back... it's important that plays like this are seen by as many people as possible... 'Those who do not learn from the past, are condemned to repeat it'."
~Alan Fitter, London Theatre 1
"A Lesson From Auschwitz is compelling theatre... Written and directed by and ‘portraying’ Rudolf Höss, James Hyland has recreated a chilling presentation... Using recently recaptured escapee Abraham Könisberg (a heartbreaking ‘portrayal’ by Michael Shon) as his example, Höss, devoid of emotion, demonstrates abuse, humiliation and psychological and physical torture... Höss’s delivery is precise and cold for the most part rationalising the irrational with absolute, unwavering conviction... horribly real, it is indeed a timely lesson with rising domestic xenophobia and prejudice abounding worldwide."
~Karen Bussell, British Theatre Guide
"As Höss, James Hyland has an imposing physical presence... he delivers the Nazi’s speeches with conviction in a chilling and uncomfortable performance. Michael Shon gives a powerful performance as Könisberg, a man who has been worn down by life in Auschwitz but who still retains his dignity... This is an incredibly powerful piece... The 'lesson' from Auschwitz that Höss wanted to impart might have been one thing, but the lesson we learn is another."
~Loitering in the Theatre
"Both actors pull off their respective roles with aplomb... Much like Stanley Kubrick’s oeuvre, the importance of humanity in 'A Lesson from Auschwitz' is emphasised by the negation of it.. it is well-made"
~Michael Davis, Breaking The Fourth Wall
A Lesson from Auschwitz
Written, Produced and Directed by James Hyland
Performed by Michael Shon and James Hyland