“Oh,” I thought to myself seconds after the lights went down for the start of Big Brother Blitzkrieg. “We are going to be subjected to one of those silly accents.” Adolf Hitler (Stephen Chance) does that thing that German caricatures do when speaking English in an apparently German accent – speak everything in English apart from ‘ja’, ‘und’ and ‘nein’. Ugh.
Big Brother (George Smith) is so repetitive I began to wonder if he ought to have been replaced by Michelle Dubois out of the television series ‘Allo ‘Allo! (“Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once”), especially when not even Hitler can successfully thwart the dreary tones of, ahem, authority. The show (or the show within the show) is mildly amusing as Adolf, who, for reasons not explained, is transported from the Third Reich to Elstree Studios, and therefore hasn’t a clue about twenty-first century technology and terminology.
After that, though, it’s never really very convincing, and, sorry to say, as riveting as watching an episode of the Big Brother television series itself, with a bunch of frankly unpalatable people sat around discussing inane topics, or otherwise participating in tasks or challenges set by Big Brother. I found the whole thing sluggish, and Felix (Neil Summerville) had it right when he exclaimed to a fellow housemate: “We’re boring, Charlie!” The audience is even subjected to the absurdly long pauses between the show’s presenter announcing an eviction and who the evictee is. I ‘sort of’ nodded off in the same way I ‘sort of’ nod off on the train whilst waiting to get to where I’m going.
The play’s climax, when it finally came, after some – admittedly somewhat interesting – twists and turns, could not have been any less predictable if it tried. I didn’t learn anything and wasn’t very much entertained by this production. Of course Rachel (Tracey Ann Wood) had to be Jewish – goodness me, this plot is so contrived. It’s no spoiler to say she and Adolf didn’t exactly get on.
This production had flashes of hilarity (M-Cat (Kit Loyd) had a certain good-naturedness, for instance) but ultimately, it failed to engage me. I couldn’t give a hoot about who would ‘win the final’, although, as I say, the result was hardly a surprise. This test of endurance should, in my humble opinion, be ‘nominated for eviction’ from the London stage forthwith.
So what’s with the three stars for a show I so struggled to like? Those who have followed the actual television series more closely, if at all, may recognise some of the characters as presented here (were they parodies of certain previous actual contestants?), and there is a revealing exploration of the psychology of the charismatic personality through Adolf’s conduct.
I cannot escape the fact that some people in the audience a) clapped and cheered enthusiastically at curtain call, and b) were challenged by its message. The cast play their characters with great aplomb, and if I didn’t like any of these housemates, I suspect – this is ‘Big Brother’ (to coin a phrase) after all – the company has done a good job. Finally, if this play has made people take note and give a second thought as to whom they pledge their support to and why, whether on a reality television series or at the ballot box, that’s no bad thing.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Big Brother Blitzkrieg
Written & Directed by Hew Rous Eyre & Max Elton
“Adolf is in The Diary Room…”
After a botched suicide attempt Adolf Hitler awakes to find himself in the Big Brother House. Confused by his situation and surrounded by some of the most loathsome individuals he’s ever met, he struggles to come to terms with the world of reality television.
Join Adolf on the journey of a lifetime as he makes friends, faces demons and finds his true voice. But will he win over the hearts and minds of the viewers in the process?
Bitter Pill’s satire of reality TV arrives following a sell-out run at Edinburgh Fringe to make it’s London premiere – and with Donald Trump being seen as a serious Presidential contender the subject matter has never felt more topical.
Big Brother Blitzkrieg
Bitter Pill Theatre
at Kings Head Theatre
14th – 30th January 2015