Plays should be written about the Holocaust. But not by Philip Wharam and Tim Marriott. It’s a terrible topic that demands sensitivity and subtlety – both of which are missing from Mengele, Wharam and Marriott’s two-hander exploring the life of the Nazi doctor who infamously experimented on the inmates of Auschwitz, then escaped to Argentina.
Marriott plays Josef Mengele, who wakes up on the shores of a South American beach – he’s just drowned, in fact – to face his final judgement. An inscrutable woman questions him about his life, his opinions, and his regrets. It’s a groan-inducing premise from the off, and it only gets worse as Mengele starts venting anti-Semitic slurs and fascist philosophies.
Marriott is a decent enough actor, as is Stefanie Rossi, who plays his ethereal interrogator, but the writing is unsophisticated and the production cringeworthily basic.
The real problem, though, is that Mengele doesn’t do anywhere near enough to justify itself. It’s trying to bluntly remind us where far-right rhetoric can lead, but it simply piggybacks on the horror of the Holocaust for its impact – a tactic that is both lazy and disrespectful in equal measure. It comes from a good place, but it really isn’t good at all.