Schiller began writing this Sturm und Drang classic at the age of nineteen and it created a sensation when it was first produced in 1782, the French Revolution just seven years away.
With its grungy, black-box aesthetic and its scuffed modern dress and idioms, Faction Theatre Company's powerful new version by Daniel Millar and Mark Leipacher (who also directs) transmits a fresh, fierce sense of the play's youthful impetuosity and its torment over the ease with which libertarian idealism slides into conscienceless anarchy.
Andrew Chevalier glints with a near-camp knowingness as the physically and intellectually twisted Franz. A self-conscious amalgam of Edmund and Richard III, he dupes his father into disinheriting his older sibling Karl whose response is to take to the woods and head a band of robbers with the Robin Hood-like aim of social redistribution.
Tom Radford keenly communicates Karl's painful nostalgia for home and his growing revulsion at the indiscriminate violence of his comrades. He ends up bashing himself repeatedly against the walls in anguish.
The snickering immaturity and lawless abandon of the wild bunch is conveyed by having them rush around chalking up tallies of their victims, with Cary Crankson in fine, gloweringly dangerous form as Karl's malcontent rival.
To February 22; 020 7383 9034