Above : author of the book, ‘Hitler’s Daughter’, Jackie French.
Since 1997, children and adults of all ages have enjoyed adaptations of books at Monkey Baa Theatre performances, Here, social and literary concepts and comments have been brought to colourful and dynamic life.
One such phenomenal success of storytelling to provoke thought and emotions during this time has been Hitler’s Daughter, based on the 1999 book by Jackie French. The original reworking of this material by Monkey Baa creatives in 2006 won its presentation a Helpmann Award amongst other accolades.
Watching this piece in its electrifyingly effective 2019 revival guise it is easy to appreciate why it was a well-deserved recipient of awards and enjoys continued audience praise. Sandra Eldridge’s joyous and sensitive directing shines once more. A strong design and acting team now bring this accessible gem to us, more penetrating in its swoop than ever.
The storytelling nature of this adaptation receives tremendous impetus through the flexibility of Imogen Ross’ flexible set to quickly and smoothly shift from questioning minds of youth in Australia to the tension and misguided allegiance of a young girl caught up in a tense world with the Führer as Vater.
Lighting designed by Luiz Pampolha shifts fluidly to accompany the alternation between worlds. Alongside some well-structured and contrasted sound from Jed Silver, the current day musings and wartime horrors are vividly evoked. Fear and propaganda during the time of air raids and ethnic cleansing are presented with believable sensory depth.
A tremendously effective way to learn challenging history is through re-enactment. Comedy, caricature and crisis can be juxtaposed to assist with the pace of exposure also. In this play these elements work well in the ebb and flow.
The comic scenes here, often relating to domestic family routine or familiar school bus and bus stop confrontations are riotously funny moments with superb unison or ensemble comic timing.
Toby Blome’s portrayal of the character Mark, eager to pump his friend Anna for information on the plight of the perhaps daughter of Hitler, is passionate. It bounces with relentless freshness from the stage. His super-keen thirst for detail and questioning of new information is genuinely presented. It drips with relentless curiosity and clear delivery.
This character’s role in both the book and on stage canvasses the quick changes in attitude, location and era as he darts around the versatile. Blome is superbly successful as a direct mouthpiece of the target age groups for this play. His engaging clarity makes the play’s questioning of leadership and dangerous attitudes very easy for us to relate to.
War and peace, questionable political leadership and the need for re-examining history is personified in the many characters played with chameleon-like dexterity by Joel Horwood. His awesome quick costume, stature, gender and dialect changes are impressive.
Emma Wright is exquisitely tentative and cautious as schoolgirl Anna, regaling her schoolmates in fragments of history pertaining to her maybe connection to Hitler.
Watching this actor’s range and range of characters explode then retreat back to a wistful sentimental position of schoolgirl memory is a treat.
Her depiction of Mark’s mother is a priceless, recogniseable quotidian school-mum fare, with subtle facts and figures about the Holocaust easy to access .
Luminous on the stage from the outset to the end is Romy Watson, stunningly suited to the characters of schoolgirl Tracey and German girl Heidi, the daughter of Hitler.
When switching to Heidi, our limping guide through the war scenes and talk of Jews, camps, the Aryan race and other assorted unbelievable concepts, she is chillingly vulnerable.
Hitler’s Daughter is a provocative, evocative morsel of theatre for audience members of any age. In its compelling revival production with foyer information panels and the chance for schools to also visitthe Sydney Jewish Museum for even more information it is a touching method of education.
History and humanity have never been so attractively packaged, responsibly treated or importantly questioned, as they are in this entertaining production.
New bookings for primary and secondary school shows and museum experiences in Sydney are now open for early September.