I wonder if there are people like Clare (Louise Goodfield) on almost any university course. I knew – past tense – someone who I did a group project with when I was an undergraduate, and she vowed she would take down what she called “the system” and change it to suit her worldview. Any attempt to get her to explain further what she meant by “the system” and quite how she intended to revolutionise it resulted in a terse response, and unjustified personal remarks. It wasn’t difficult to deduce she was anti-capitalist. It is with some irony that her first job after graduating was with Lloyds Banking Group, where she stayed for some years.
Here, in A Nazi Comparison, it’s left unclear as to where exactly Clare ends up, as the narrative covers only a few weeks, from what I could tell. This production’s pre-show was made up of on-stage warm-ups, a communal huddle and then the drinking of bottled water. The tops worn by Craig Edgely and Lucas John Mahoney, who play characters bearing their own first names, have slogans that make clear their positions – “NHS not Trident” and “You Are The Government – Bad Religion” respectively.
The comparison between Nazism and more recent rhetoric from the White House (and other places) only scratches the surface in terms of the ground that the play covers. Put simply, Clare has substituted the word ‘Jew’ with the word ‘Muslim’, and in so doing, Adolf Hitler’s speeches sound plausibly like those of a number of modern political leaders who wish to gain votes from their electorate by sounding tough on tackling so-called ‘Islamic fundamentalism’.
The somewhat unimaginatively titled The Community comes across as the sort of group I would broadly equate to Occupy London, famous for its campsites in various places in the capital. Their most prominent camp was the one outside St Paul’s Cathedral, which formed in late October 2011 and finally evicted at the end of February 2012. The play is slanted in favour of Jeremy Corbyn, though without ‘Tory-bashing’, instead, laying the blame on both left and right-wing media for their rhetoric. Credit where credit is due, though – their assertions are backed up with well-researched figures, even if the old adage “lies, damned lies, and statistics” should never be entirely discounted.
The social and political commentary that permeates the narrative is rarely subtle. A shouting match between Clare and her mother (Helen Foster) reveals the true colours of opposing viewpoints more than the more civilised conversation Clare has with her father (Thomas Thoroe). This is, in some ways, surprising, but on reflection the fuller and franker discussion, although less comfortable to watch, naturally lends itself to a more impactful conclusion.
I also note with interest ‘Godwin’s law’, not mentioned or discussed in the play, which puts forward the theory that if an online discussion, for instance in a forum or social media, goes on long enough, at some point somebody will make a comparison between someone or something to Hitler, irrespective of the original topic of the conversation. A Nazi Comparison contains distinctly off-line dialogue, but the principle stands, and as the said comparison was made relatively early on in the play, the show drags in the final scenes.
There is, unfortunately, far too much melodrama, from Clare and Craig, who both, separately, alienate themselves from long-standing friends on account of their incivility. Elsewhere, some of the humour may have been welcome comic relief for some. Leaving aside that I was personally not amused, it jarred with the serious messages the play was trying to put across. The plot came across as unnecessarily complicated: the family dynamics between Clare and her parents were more interesting than the political debates, which probably wasn’t what the play was trying to achieve. Although mostly briskly paced, the play is very broad but ultimately lacks depth.
Review by Chris Omaweng
How engrained are aspects of Nazism in our current political climate? The reality might scare you. Craft explores this question in a new hard-hitting and piece of devised satirical theatre.
Clare, a young woman at university happens upon an English translation of a play written by Hitler’s favourite playwright. Unshockingly it upsets her deeply; less expectedly it upsets her entire world view. Every line of script shows an uneasy familiarity and Clare begins to realise the strong parallels in how the media was manipulated then, and now.
Filled with anxiety that the world is far from as noble and progressive as people are led to believe, Clare digs deeper and deeper, tumbling down a rabbit hole that eventually isolates her from everyone she knows and loves. Friends shun her; her parents dismiss her; she becomes sullen and confrontational. Her life begins to implode; she is fired from her job and expelled from her studies.
Her anger consumes her. If the truth is the truth then why won’t anyone listen? Clare’s thoughts turn more extreme and she soon finds extremists to confide in. Together they begin a dangerous plan. As Clare continues in her quest for truth, does she reveal her worst fear, or does she become it?
A Nazi Comparison
Dates: 3 – 29 Oct
Press Night: Wednesday 4th Oct
Waterloo East: Brad Street London SE1 8TN
Running time: .120 mins with an interval
Strictly No Latecomers Admitted.