adapted by Rupert Wickham from the book by Sebastian Haffner.
Tour to 29 March 2012.
Runs 1hr No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 March at Arts Depot North Finchley.
History fascinatingly recorded in the human conscience.
It was Oliver Pretzel who gave the world Defying Hitler. For its author was born Raimund Pretzel. Having escaped Nazi Germany, about which he wrote for much of his life, Pretzel protected his family through a pseudonym combining Bach’s middle name with the title of Mozart’s final symphony.
And which asserted German culture against the coarse corporal who became the Führer. Rupert Wickham’s adaptation of Haffner’s final book, published posthumously by his son in 2000, suggests the two men had only one thing in common: shock at Germany’s defeat in World War I. Hitler’s response, to throw himself into bed in rage, marks the emotional indulgence that helped lead him down the path to National Socialism.
Seen first sitting at his typewriter, Russell Bright’s Haffner recognises the disparity between the mighty Reich on one hand, and himself alone on the other. It is a story of pre-war Germany (Haffner left in 1938)and a reminder, like Hans Fallada’s novel Alone in Berlin, of the isolated protests that dodged the jackboot’s tread as long as possible.
Yet Haffner didn’t protest publically. If there’s a somewhat unvarying edge of protest to Bright’s performance, it mirrors the memoir, which the author’s son suggested his father would not have wanted published because it lacked his later, calmer tone.
Haffner examines himself as well as Germany. He has lived through the country’s defeat and mega-inflation, but cannot follow others into the vulgarity and cruelty of Nazism. Perhaps it’s the comparative restraint that makes one of the most pointed moments the command that Jewish gentlemen should leave the office; a workplace being suddenly divided by the, previously unconsidered, ethnicity of its occupants.
Theatre Unlimited tour the show in tandem with another Wickham script, Stalin’s Favourite. Its speaker, minor Soviet writer Konstantin Simonov, finds himself complicit in the cruelties of Stalinism while remaining the dictator’s favourite. In this companion study of Europe’s other major 20th-century tyranny, Haffner exiles himself in his room and then abroad. In each, personal experience latched on to history makes for a valuable insight into political processes and their repercussions in the individual conscience.
Sebastian Haffner: Russell Bright.
Director: Peter Symonds.
Designer: Michael Folkard.
Lighting: Max Hudd.