This review was written for Animations Online
‘Schicklgruber… Alias Adolf Hitler’ tells the notorious story of the final moments of Hitler, Eva Braun, Goebbels et al. It’s a one-man show – in this instance played out on a large stage at the Traverse, Edinburgh – with Neville Tranter of Stuffed Puppet operating and voicing every single, despicable character. It’s a huge feat.
Tranter uses large, hand operated muppet-style puppets, with exaggerated features and face splitting mouths. The purpose of the production seems to be to show the bunker’s infamous inhabitants as utterly ridiculous. The play is characterised by moments of ear splitting hysteria and ones of deathly silence.
The way the puppets behave is toe curling. Eva Braun minces and whinnies like the worst kind of fading screen star, and flirts sickeningly with Goebbels over illicit cigarettes. Göring moves about on wheels and has hot air balloon proportions. Blondie the dog is fixed in a permanent pose of cross-eyed shock. Even Goebbels’ children are vile.
Death is imagined as a towering drag queen swathed in yellow, with huge hands and toilet roll thick fingers. She begins as a children’s entertainer, appearing at intervals with magic tricks and songs, but becomes increasingly sinister. Her final encounter with Hitler is both silly and appalling.
Hitler is the other characters’ main concern but he actually has a surprisingly minor role, talking relatively little. He is just as likely to offer us a long gloomy silence as a violent outburst. Tranter plays Linge, the only human character and a long-suffering servant. Linge is the one we might have some sympathy for, as he stalks about the bunker carrying out mundane and diabolic errands.
A maximum of two puppets can be operated at one time and they litter the stage when not in use. Their lifeless bodies are a constant presence, which is a distraction. When they are in use, Tranter is so divided between the characters that he isn’t able to give each puppet his full focus and so imbue them with believable life. This does, however, contribute to the sense of impending doom and neatly prefigures their fates.
‘Schicklgruber… Alias Adolf Hitler’ is an odd play about an infamous episode. It’s brave to tackle something so well-known but in doing so you need something original to offer. This play doesn’t shed any new light on Hitler and his cronies; reinventing them as a motley crew of crackpot puppets isn’t enough.