|Published on Wednesday, 24 August 2011|
It's a brave choice to play Hitler in any circumstances. The one-man show Hitler Alone, however, might just be the bravest of them all, because Paul Webster doesn't just aim to be the Hitler that the world knows; he wants to show us the hidden Adolf, vulnerable in the moments before his death. The success of the show does depend on a suspension of your disbelief, but it is an admirable effort nonetheless.
It’s advertised as “An Audience With Hitler”, and there’s not a show I’ve seen with a more accurate tagline. In an hour of listening to “Hitler’s” stream of conciousness, he varies randomly from anger to reminiscence to psychoanalysis, in the way that madmen do. There were six of us in the tiny room at Inlingua and the intimacy was refreshing, if not slightly terrifying; Webster certainly uses space well, and it was much of the physicality of his acting that impressed me.
Webster’s characterisation is interesting. For an hour-long show, there is surprisingly little time spent with Hitler ranting and screaming furiously. The show starts that way and it’s frightening, but for much of the monologue, Hitler is quiet and overwhelmed – even when he’s spewing hateful rhetoric and mocking his fellow world leaders. While many other interpretations of the Fuhrer represent him as a robotic madman with little emotional range, Webster makes him seem (at the very least) human. It’s refreshing to see something break the stereotype, and it’s done fairly successfully, with a poignancy that makes you think but not sympathise.
But at times, it feels more like an exposition on Hitler’s life than a rumination. I appreciate the fact that it’s absurdly difficult to draw a line between maintaining the pace and giving the audience a general background on Hitler’s life, especially since most people wouldn’t be aware of his personal history before WWII. Still, I think sometimes it got bogged down in historical fact rather than characterisation – though Webster should clearly be admired for the depth of his historical research.
That reservation asid, Webster’s effort is outstanding. He made the audience jump out of their seats in anxiety when a rant came on, made us think when he questioned his own circumstances, and even made us laugh at some wry humour aimed at the British. The performance is utterly captivating, and if you’ve ever been one of those people that answered “Hitler” to that question about Most Fascinating Dinner Guests (and I’ve met such people!), you should definitely take a trip to Inlingua and experience an hour with the Fuhrer.
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FROM OUR ARCHIVES
These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2011. We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.