Big Brother Blitzkrieg at The King’s Head Theatre
Big Brother Blitzkrieg is an Edinburgh Fringe-graduate written play, directed by the up-and-coming team of Hew Rous Eyre and Max Elton. The premise: Adolf Hitler is in the Big Brother house, surrounded by the various misfits and wannabe celebrities that populate that show. It’s a clever idea that could have been inspired by a cutaway gag from Family Guy, with the bijou, student setting of The King’s Head Theatre serving as a highly complementary venue.
The play has a scrappy charm to it, with a minimalist set and rather broad comedy, whilst making good use of both the format of Big Brother and Hitler’s personal timeline. What is most surprising about Blitzkrieg, which could have ended up being a one-joke sketch, is how furiously it sustains its running time, without an interval. It has a gripping narrative that many larger plays struggle to match.
The impressive cast no doubt play a part in this. Hitler’s housemates run the gamut from irritating to obnoxious, from the gay and uninhibited Felix (Neil Summerville), the dim-witted M-Cat (Kit Lloyd), the snobbish PR rep Lucy (Jenny Johns), the Jewish mum of three Rachel (Tracy Ann Wood) and the easily offended uber-feminist Charlie (a beguiling Hannah Douglas). These characters are inherently stereotypical and function more as archetypes than anything else, yet some actors are required to handle subtle character transformations too, as befits the charismatic sway of their new housemate.
Blitzkrieg’s success is due in large part to actor Stephen Chance’s masterful navigation of these tricky waters, turning Hitler into both an absurd buffoon and a sinister manipulator of the susceptible, shallow personalities around him. This Hitler is thin-skinned, petulant and easily angered, which often yields much laughter, yet Chance never neglects to show his coiled, prowling movements, suggesting a sinister and fiendish glimmer behind the screaming bravado.
The play’s tone is conducted through the Hitler character as his influence begins to exert itself, giving a decidedly bitter taste to the comedy. Indeed, the creators have acknowledged the play’s polemical attacks against “anti” politics and celebrity worship, given the popularity of a certain reality star running for political office across the pond.
Whether or not this is a story that contributes significantly to 21st century political thought, there is great talent and promise to be found here. Big Brother Blitzkrieg is consistently funny and increasingly tense during its 75-minute run time and it certainly punches above its weight.
Big Brother Blitzkrieg is on at the King’s Head Theatre from 14th January until 30th January 2016, for further information or to book visit here.