Devised and Directed by: Craft Theatre
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
The world is a terrible place and if you think about it, it will drive you mad, which is the central premise of Craft Theatre’s new show A Nazi Comparison opening at the Waterloo East Theatre. In a show that feels fairly paranoid about all the evil forces out to get us, there are so many things to care about that its central character Clare becomes entangled in a web of political activism that takes in anger at the media, climate change concerns and fear of American power.
Clare has recently joined university, and after attending a political presentation about newspaper bias towards Jeremy Corbyn, she encounters the radical Craig at a protest about the Grenfell Tower. Soon she’s living in a squat with other protestors and making emotional political speeches to anyone who will listen. As Clare’s devotion to the cause increases she starts to lose the connections to her family and her friends, while things spiral out of control.
A Nazi Comparison’s central conceit is that if you replace the word ‘Jew’ in one of Hitler’s speeches with the word ‘Islam’ then it becomes frighteningly modern, and, while that is true, much of Craft Theatre’s show ineptly wraps a relentless political hammering in a weakly constructed and haphazard tale of youthful activism. There are just too many ideas rattling around in a show that hasn’t quite decided what it wants to say and, despite its title, very quickly forgets about the Nazi comparison.
The audience is never sure whether they should sympathise and be inspired by Clare’s rants or see her determined naivety as a warning against getting too involved. And Craft can’t decipher who they think is the ‘enemy’, with arguments frequently blaming American aggression and the generic ‘media’ for their misrepresentation of world events. Using excerpts from Trump’s speeches and from Fox News to prove this feels lazy when both are widely seen as extreme depictions of American values.
Although the show also references the Iraq war, the refugee crisis and the RSC accepting funds from BP, it’s just a succession of facts, facts, facts and rants that give us no insight into the characters or any sense that their trajectory is a realistic one. Clare’s relationship with her divorced parents feels unlikely and frequently confuses an already meandering plot with an unnecessary family drama that only prolongs the resolution of this 90-minute show.
Louise Goodfield spends a considerable portion of this in tears of rage or exasperation which seems to be the conclusion to almost all of Clare’s scenes, and, without any further nuance, makes it difficult to understand her motives or believe her dedication to the fight is worthwhile. Craig Edgely as Craig becomes more integral to the plot as the show progresses but has an equally unlikely path from local social protestor to waging war internationally which happens with unexpected rapidity offstage.
There is a mixture of technique in the show, combining longer dramatized scenes with some quick-fire moments, projection and even a misfiring rap urging “the way to fight is to unite,” which gives the show some variety and clearly the ensemble is quite fired-up about the state of the world, which is admirable.
But the most successful and inspiring political theatre tends to be carefully constructed to subtly deliver a strong message, whether it’s James Graham’s revealing portraits of tabloid journalism in Ink or of the workings of the Labour Party in Labour of Love, or Guillermo Calderon unpicking the multiple-facets of terrorist motivation in B. Craft Theatre clearly wants to make work that shakes the audience out of its complacency, but, taking inspiration from these other shows, there needs to be a stronger narrative framework and a clear message about what we all need to do to make the world better.
Runs until: 29 October 2017 | Image: Contributed