Writer and Director: Ian Dixon Potter
Tales from the Golden Age, a series of monologues, has been one of the treats of the summer, but the newest show on Golden Age Theatre’s YouTube channel comes as a slight disappointment. Unlike the other stories, The Triumph of Evil lacks dramatic drive and the potentially riveting story of a man saving prisoners from Hitler’s death camps becomes lost in exposition and philosophical musings.
Golden Theatre regular Neil Summerville plays Swedish aristocrat Count Folke Bernadotte who, in his role with the Red Cross, meets Heinrich Himmler to organise the removal of people interned in the prison camps. Aware of the rumours that Hitler has ordered that all evidence of the prisoners and the camps be destroyed before the Allies arrive, Bernadotte knows that he has to act fast. He persuades Himmler to release Scandinavian prisoners and then organises a convoy to remove them from Germany.
However, we hear little about these negotiations with Himmler or about the controversial convoy, which also rescued 450 Danish Jews. Instead, Bernadotte tries to work out how Hitler managed to become so powerful, and how his actions went unchallenged for so long. At first, Bernadotte blames ordinary German people who did not just turn a blind eye, but who reported their neighbours, whether they be Jews, homosexuals or communists, to the Nazis. People didn’t have put on a uniform to be guilty of atrocities.
Of course, this is where the title of Ian Dixon Potter’s show comes into play. Meme-friendly and so overused that it’s in danger of becoming meaningless Edmund Burke’s full sentence is ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ However, Bernadotte suggests that many Germans did more than nothing to aid Hitler’s reign of terror. Later, in the 50-minute monologue Bernadotte wonders whether rather than just a German trait, this hatred of the other is a European feature, or a state of being human.
While all these are interesting ideas, they are not new, and they don’t add anything to the character of Bernadotte. Did he reason this way, or is he a mouthpiece for Dixon Potter’s reflections? It’s not entirely clear. However, Summerville manages to create a sympathetic Bernadotte, quietly blustering like Churchill, and presents his views with clarity. Sometimes the editing between shots and camera angles is choppy, spoiling the otherwise smooth filming of this play, which is soon to be seen in London theatres at the end of this month.
Other Dixon Potter plays will also be performed alongside The Triumph of Evil, and it will be fascinating to see how they fit together, considering that they are all so different. They range from explorations of transgender issues, Brexit and whether Christopher Marlowe was indeed Shakespeare. What exactly is the Golden Age remains to be seen.