Peter Fechter – 59 Minutes

Every year at the Fringe I look forward to the production from Theatre by the River. I can be sure that I’ll be watching an intelligent and though provoking show. Last year’s Sea Wall, was a challenging and at time unnerving show. This year’s production is Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes.

You can find location and show times over here.

*May contain spoilers

Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes, is written by Jordan Tannahill, an up and coming, young, Canadian playwright, originally from Ottawa. The play takes as it’s source material, the story of Peter Fechter, Fechter was one of the first people killed by East German border guards as he tried to cross from East to West Germany. This occurred about a year after the construction of the Berlin Wall.

Peter Fechter plaque
A plaque in Berlin dedicated to the memory of Peter Fechter.

Tannahill tried to find out more about Fechter during the play writing process. Unfortunately he didn’t find that. Instead he decided that, (from the program):

All he could do was imagine. So instead of only trying to embody the young man from the photograph, he had to find Peter in himself, to utilize his own fears and dreams; his own “journey to find love and a place in the world of adults.”


As a result, Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes is almost a vision quest. As Peter lays bleeding out, the world around him starts to crystallize. He hears sounds never heard before. He sees relationships with a new clarity. As he interacts with the other characters he begins to understand how they were driven by love. Finally, he realizes that love is what he himself is seeking.

The story of a man dying a slow, painful death could be quite discouraging. However, Tannahill has turned it into a story that reminds us to seize the opportunities for love in our lives.. Fechter was only 18 when he went over the wall. As we watch him come to the realization of the importance of love, we realize it’s a revelation he won’t get to act on. We, as an audience though, still have that opportunity.

Peter Fechter Performances

Kevin P. Gabel, as Fechter, gives a gripping performance. There are a few surprises in the course of the play. I found that Gabel was so engrossing that these surprises genuinely startled me. Gabel has a difficult job. He not only needs to express Peter’s dying pain, but also to carry on conversations with the other characters, who are present only as voices over the sound system.

There are a lot of sound and light cues in this performance. I don’t know the tech’s name, but she had fantastic execution on all of them.

Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes is another must see Fringe Show. Tickets are selling very fast, so make sure you grab them while you can.


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