Unusual move into historical drama from Jim Allen, but still true to his Trotskyite roots and belief in basing drama on solid fact. Taking as its starting point the infamous incident where Italian partisans at the end of WWII shot 33 SS paratroopers, and Nazi occupying forces retaliated by summarily executing ten times as many innocent Italian citizens to set an example, Allen weighs up the iniquities of three totalitarian systems involved – The Nazi regime, Stalin’s empire to which the partisans pledged loyalty, and the Catholic church under Pope Pius XII, which turned a blind eye to both this incident and the Holocaust.
Stephen Murray is Cardinal Volponi, eager to intercede with the conclave over the release of Marxist priest Trevor Peacock, who must choose between a death sentence and the repudiation of his left-wing principles. Murray attempts to moderate Peacock’s views by telling him of the evils of Stalin’s plans for eastern Europe, but Peacock in turn accuses Murray of being corrupted by careerism and compromise. All the while the Pope remains impossibly aloof and serene, seemingly oblivious (or indifferent) to the plight of the world. A typically uncompromising work which had languished unproduced since 1971 before Margaret Matheson picked it up for the strand.