Hitler’s Tasters review at Greenside, Infirmary Street, Edinburgh – ‘slick, smart and unsettling’
This slick, smart production by New Light Theater Project is rooted in truth. In 1942, a group of 15 young women were selected to taste Adolf Hitler’s food. It was their job to confirm that it wasn’t poisoned and was safe for him to eat. In Michelle Kholos Brooks’ appealingly anachronistic play the girls treat this as an honour, even if the food is vegetarian.
Between meals they gossip, bicker and take selfies. They swoon over Cary Grant, but dance around to Bitch, I’m Madonna. The result is a sort of Nazi Mean Girls, the mixture of the modern and the historical allowing the play to explore the cult of leadership, the overlap between fandom and populism, and the heady allure of power.
The girls talk about the Fuhrer as if he were divine or a movie star. They feverishly discuss his romantic availability. This is all undercut by a palpable repulsion of anyone who doesn’t fit their Aryan ideal.
The girls’ perky world is occasionally disrupted by ominous figures wielding flashlights, and a sense they are all replaceable.
The performances, by Hallie Griffin, Mary Katherine Kopp, Kaitlin Paige Longoria and Hannah Mae Sturges as newcomer Margot, are very well-pitched. Sarah Norris’ production is one of precision and is stylishly designed and costumed – the girls even sport swastika undies – even if it feels a bit constrained in the space.
By forcing the parallels between now and then we also lose historical perspective, but it remains an intriguing, idiosyncratic and unsettling piece of theatre.
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