Plays by Stephen Unwin

All Our Children  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stephen Unwin's debut play All Our Children explores the fate of disabled children in Nazi Germany, examining the moral dilemma facing those in whose care they were placed. It was first produced by Tara Finney Productions in association with Jermyn Street Theatre, and was first performed at Jermyn Street Theatre, London, on 26 April 2017.

The play is set in January 1941, in the Winkelheim Clinic near Cologne, run by paediatrician Victor Franz. Having created the clinic in peacetime to help sick children, Victor is now being forced to use it to dispatch severely disabled people to their deaths. His own growing qualms about the process are brutally countered by a young SS officer, Eric, who has been installed as his deputy. In the course of the play's action, Victor is forced to defend himself against two visitors: a mother, Elizabetta, anxious about the fate of her son; and the historical figure of Bishop von Galen, who, as in life, challenges both the practice and the philosophy of the extermination of the supposedly 'unproductive citizens'.

In a note in the published script, Stephen Unwin writes: 'All Our Children is very much a work of fiction. There is no evidence that von Galen had a meeting of the kind that I have dramatised (though he did talk with senior figures in the SS) nor do we know of a doctor involved in the programme having qualms about what he was doing. What’s clear, however, is that his intervention raised the most profound questions about the innate value of the human being, regardless of cost or productivity, and his voice, for all its stubborn absolutism, deserves to be heard.'

The premiere production was directed by Stephen Unwin and designed by Simon Higlett. It was performed by Edward Franklin, Rebecca Johnson, Lucy Speed, Colin Tierney (as Victor) and David Yelland (as Bishop von Galen).

Stephen Unwin read English at Cambridge, where he directed many student productions, including an award-winning production of Measure for Measure that transferred to the Almeida, where he was awarded an Arts Council Trainee Director's Bursary.

For much of the 1980s, he was Associate Director at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, and several of his productions transferred to London theatres. In the early 1990s, he became Resident Director at the National Theatre Studio. In 1993, Stephen founded English Touring Theatre, where he directed twenty productions, many of which were seen at the Old Vic, the Donmar, the Lyric Hammersmith and others. He stepped down from ETT in 2008 after fifteen years at the helm, and joined the Rose Theatre, Kingston as Artistic Director.

His many books include The Pocket Guide to Shakespeare's Plays; So You Want to be a Theatre Director?; The Guide to the Plays of Bertolt Brecht (Methuen Drama) and The Well Read Play.