Camp Siegfried by Bess Wohl. The Old Vic, London TO 30 October 2021. 3***. William Russell.

Opinions on this two hander by Bess Wohl which I saw in preview are divided – anything from five to two stars. Maybe some of that depended on where on sat because apart from anything else it is too small a play for this theatre in spite of fine performances from Patsy Ferran, who is always interesting to watch, and Luke Thallon as teenagers holiday at a Long Island summer camp in 1938. That both are well out of their teens does not actually matter. Known only as Her and Him we discover that the camp is not what it seems. In American theatre summer camps were places where Jewish boys practiced writing Broadway shows while enjoying the open air and holiday romances. This one, German run, does provide the hamburgers if not the borscht and the sports and teenage sex – for Him, who lives on the corner of Hitler and Goebels, having sex with someone, preferably the susceptible Her, who lives on Hitler Street will be proof he is a man and his summer has been a success – is also all about teaching these young Aryans to admire Hitler and follow the Fascist path. It is pretty chilling to watch, and Ferran and fallon play off one another with considerable skill in a stark set designed by Rosanna Vize against which occasional videos of real Nazi events are projected.
He is anxious to prove he is a man, she gets seduced by the whole thing and is chosen to deliver the big speech at the camp function – it is America great Trumpian rhetoric. In fact she realises it is wrong when – she believes Him has got her pregnant – she meets a kind and helpful Jewish doctor. One can see in these pandemic times why two handers end up on stage but ending up on the wrong stage does no service to audience or play although the players here do survive the vastness into which they must project. But the play also does rather hammer home parallels with today and the radicalisation that takes place among susceptible youth resulting in their embarking on murderous careers. But these camps did exist and did influence the young Americans sent to them for a summer of love and fascism as part of building a master race.

Him: Luke Thallon.
Her: Patsy Ferran.

Director: Katy Rudd.
Set Designer: Rosanna Vize.
Lighting Designer: Rob Casey.
Video Projections: Tal Romer.
Production photographs: Manuel Harlan.

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