Review: Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, Union Theatre

 “Justice is what serves the Germans best” 

The title of Fear and Misery of the Third Reich might not seem like the most appealing at this time of the January blues but it is precisely this kind of complacency that Bertolt Brecht was cautioning against, and that Phil Willmott’s production for the Union Theatre highlights so effectively. Written by the playwright in 1938, this collection of inter-connected vignettes shows both remarkable insight into how prejudice and paranoia were manipulated to allow National Socialism to permeate all levels of German society, and an alarming prescience in how such behaviour might persist even today. 

So in a series of scenes that jolt from farcical comedy to the darkest drama to pointed symbolism, Brecht takes us on a journey though the rise of jackbooted thuggery, overt anti-Semitism and bigoted political rhetoric. And the way in which people are browbeaten into submission – from the factory workers coerced into participating in fawning propaganda broadcasts to the parents anxious not to show their injured son too much concern after his release from a concentration camp lest they be reported for fraternising with the enemy – demonstrates the difficulties in trying to resist such a sea change, no matter how much one might recognise that it is wrong. Continue reading “Review: Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, Union Theatre”

Review: Valhalla, Theatre503

“When it comes to pain and fear and love, we are a breed apart”

Hmm, a difficult one this. Due to the very very late withdrawal of Clint Dyer from the show, Theatre503’s Valhalla opened to critics with the playwright Paul Murphy stepping into the role, understandably performing script in hand. But whilst the ‘show must go on’ ethos is admirable, there’s no denying that forging on ahead in this manner does Jo McInnes’ production little favour, fatally unbalancing it for the moment whilst offering frustrating hints of what might have been and what might yet still be once Murphy is able to settle into the part.

It doesn’t help that I found the play, from first-time writer Murphy, difficult. Valhalla did win the 2014 Theatre503 Playwriting Award from over 1600 other submissions but its gnomic, over-saturated nature is challenging. Explorations of eugenics and genetic testing rub shoulders with hints of Nordic folklore and witchcraft as a couple flee riots in the UK for the isolation of a Scandinavian research facility where they’re on the cusp of finding a cure for a global pandemic (what a time to be alive…). But this scientific advancement comes at personal cost, the terms of which the couple thrash out. Continue reading “Review: Valhalla, Theatre503”