Gamma Ray Theatre
Performed at The Bridge Theatre, Penge West. 21st – 25th Sept 2021.
Where does one possibly start with Ay Up, Hitler!? Well, the title itself delivers everything one would expect, and so much more, in this razor sharp satire by David McCulloch – relocating Hitler ‘and his Cronies’ to a post war Yorkshire, as they ruminate on ‘The 4th Reich’ in a public house and dream of (eventual) world domination.
According to writer/actor, McCulloch, the title began as a conversational gag that lead him to work backwards, writing an entire three act play to explain it – all based around the novel idea that Hitler (Peter McCrohon) escaped certain death a la recurring Bond villain at the end of WW11 and smuggled both himself and his motley crew, Joseph Goebbels (Marcus Churchill), Heinrich Himmler (Michael Grist) and Hermann Göring (McCulloch) into the North of England. And by gum it works!
The endless Blackadder-esque killer one liners are all hysterical, each helped along by the cast of bright young things, who simply fizz with energy and keep the audience rolling in the aisles throughout.
Plaudits must go to Peter McCrohon as the man himself, a thigh slapping dead ringer for Our Man In Berlin (well, if you squint a little), who loves nothing better than goose stepping the night away, flirting with sundry ladies in the audience and occasionally breaking that pesky fourth wall.
Marcus Churchill doubling up as…Churchill (you couldn’t make it up), reminds us all how our cigar smoking hero of WW11 just about kept himself on the right side of history, despite a shocking number of previous military ‘initiatives’ worthy of the Nazis themselves…
Michael Grist is a real find and excels in no less than three roles. And it has to be said, his Eva Braun is a sight to behold. One would need to ‘be there’, but suffice to say I believe Eva herself would have said that it was like looking into a mirror. Possibly. Alas, we’ll never know.
Finally we have David McCulloch himself, who has enormous fun making the most of his own dialogue, before pulling the rug away with an unexpected meta-twist (that genuinely floored a number of the audience, according to our post pub chat).
The denouement links Hitler & the Nazis to what many might say we have on offer today – Trump followers (btw you’ll believe Hannah-Cait Harrison IS Donald Trump..!), Boris worshippers et al – powerful charismatic individuals all playing the ‘peoples’ clown’ card and working their audience via social media.
Orwell would be spinning in his grave.
And for those of you taking notes at the back, there is actually a facts n figures tick list that gets interweaved throughout, offering up some stark detail of what Nazi Germany actually attempted to deliver. As funny as Ay Up, Hitler! is, you are constantly reminded – and quite rightly so – that this was one of the darkest periods in 20th century history.
The actors are all choreographed to perfection by director, Chris Hawley, who makes the most of the Bridge Theatre’s small stage and shows us how adaptable the production could be in other venues. An extended run at next year’s Edinburgh Fringe, anyone?
Beyond the laughs the play offers up a comment on the world we live in today – and the unexpectedly dark ending reminds us all that the far right are always waiting in the wings for their next big chance.
Conclusion: A savage satire with laughs a plenty and a message to boot. Worth the price of admission alone.
Go see!4.0 out of 5.0 stars