Writers: Philip Wharam and Tim Marriott
Director: Tim Marriott
Reviewer: Tom Ralphs
Josef Mengele, the doctor of Auschwitz, escaped justice after World War 2 and lived out the rest of his years in South America. Did he ever show any shred of remorse for his actions, or did he continue to hold the beliefs that led him to volunteer for his role? And what was underpinning those beliefs? These are the questions that inform Mengele, a two-hander performed by Tim Marriott and Emma Wingrove.
Over the course of three acts: Hubris; Nemesis and Catharsis, Mengele’s narrative unfolds, as an initially unnamed female prompts him to talk about himself and his world view. What begins with seemingly valid observations on the problems of over population and the environmental damage it may go on to cause, turns into the darker toxic politics of choosing who has the right to live and who should be left to die.
From the separation of the healthy from the unhealthy and the offer of a better life for the former, through to the extermination of people because of their religion and into experimenting on the survivors, it is the progression of Mengele’s logic, and the self-righteous nature that allows him to justify his most grotesque acts, that is chillingly exposed by the constant questions.
The questions start to seem excessive at one point, leading Mengele to ask: ‘what is the point of you, what is your purpose?’ but when the woman reveals her identity and confronts Mengele with what he is, rather than what he claims to be, the façade is taken apart, at least for the audience.
Mengele was not a man who swerved from his conviction that everything he was doing was justified and so to make this play a confrontation or debate between the two characters would be making the character something he wasn’t. Instead Marriott gives him the stage time to air his views, with the perfect level of arrogance, self-justification and denial, before showing what the reality was. In this way, the contrast between truth and perception, and where it can lead to is powerfully highlighted by the play.
Runs until 26 August 2018 | Image: Contributed