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Enta da STAGE: Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall

November 25, 2009

Spike Milligan’s Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall: Theatre Review

Wheeled onto the stage of Nottingham’s Theatre Royal in a tin bath, our hero began a trumpet reveille to the audience amid a cloud of bubbles. This surreal and uniquely British introduction could only be for the man who was judged by an internet poll to be ‘the funniest person of the last 1000 years’ – Spike Milligan. Or at least a homage to the late great comic, in a stage adaptation of the first of his war memoirs, Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall.

Translated for the theatre by Tim Carroll and co-adapter Ben Power, the Second World War-based play was an anarchic mixed-bag of monologues, musical numbers and sketches of which the author would have been proud. A variety show of the highest order, the cast evoked hilarity as well as empathy from the protagonist Gunner Terrence ‘Spike’ Milligan.

Jovial scenes of Hitler in underpants crooning to Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby

Director Carroll talks in the programme of the “painful sweetness which lifts the spirit while piercing the heart” and the production took in the abundant sweet one-liners with the bitter taste of loss which defined Milligan’s war experience. Jovial scenes of Hitler in swastika-emblazoned underpants crooning to Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby were juxtaposed with the emotional reading of Milligan’s account of his unit being shelled by the Germans.

But this was first and foremost a comedy, and the cast were strong in their depiction of a number of characters. In his first professional acting debut, Sholto Morgan shone as the former Goon – mugging away with impeccable comic timing throughout.

A depressing era is transformed into a swinging jazz party

The multi-faceted actors managed to transform what was a depressing era for all into a swinging jazz party performed with luscious horns, bass and keys. Add to this the camaraderie and banter derived from the intense boredom of inaction in North Africa – dreams of steak dinners, stories of Tunisian prostitutes, insatiable thirsts for cups of tea – and you are left with that most British of barracks humour.

Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall is very true to its source material and retains the comic rhythm by adding a jazz soundtrack to create a show which will appeal to all.

Spike Milligan’s Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall is showing at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until November28 2009

Originally published at ng-magazine.com, Nov 24 2009, 10.03am

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