Presenting the noble artistic credentials of one of the most evil group of men in history to the knowledgeable Old Fitz theatre crowd is a very clever conceit. Theatre crowds generally have artistic interests. They frequent cinema, galleries, music venues and museums and would not expect themselves to be confronted with the vile Nazis displaying their affection, knowledge and desire for the various genres of creativity. Take these themes and meld them with some fine writing, directing and strong performances and you have impressive theatre.
The opening monologue introduces the idea of the humanity of these creeps but then slowly breaks their personalities down into their foibles, prejudices, vanities and pathetic weaknesses. The play runs at a frenetic pace as it presents the history and examines what art was considered suitable and what art was declared degenerate. Narrator Megan O’Connell presents a timeline of major events starting with the groups’ disillusionment with the state of their country in the aftermath of World War 1 and how they coalesce into a group that rides on bigotry and injustice to lead Germany and then invade large swathes of Europe. Simultaneously the actors present scenarios of their artistic interests or those foisted on them by Hitler’s dominant personality and his particular taste in art, music and architecture.
I enjoyed the strong contrasts presented in this play. There are forceful scenes and a generally grim narrative but this is modulated with humour and discussions of painting and opera. The foppish performances of Giles Gartrell-Mills as Goering, Guy Edmonds as Himmler and Toby Schmitz as Goebbels were delightful. Another powerful contrast came from Henry Nixon’s Hitler who ranged from quietly persuasive to enraged mania. Septimus Caton as Albert Speer and Rupert Reid as Reinhard Heydrich complete this fine cast. The gradual change of tone and demeanour of the cast is excellently realised.
The creative team is assistant director: Andrew Henry, set & costume design: Maya Keys, lighting design: Alexander Berlage, sound design: Ben Pierpoint and AV design: Aron Murray.
Writer/director Toby Schmitz’s is to be commended on his excellent play and timely reminder of the evils of racism, prejudice and the rise of the far right.
This new Australian play is on at the Old Fitz Theatre until 4th November.