Theatre review: The Good Scout, theSpace at Surgeons Hall, Edinburgh

An expertly layered piece
An expertly layered piece
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“In Germany youth has the power,” is the fearsome message delivered here under a flag of supposed friendship, with the Second World War breathing down the necks of the nation.

The Good Scout, theSpace at Surgeons Hall (Venue 53) * * * *

“Here (in Britain), you have to be old and grey before anybody listens to you.” The resolutely Aryan Hitler Youth Gerhard experiences a certain sense of culture shock alongside his comrade Friedrich as they visit England amid an unlikely – but historically correct – sense of mutual co-operation during the 1930s, yet in this assessment he has the stuffy old power corridors of the UK down to a tee.

The hidden metaphor in his words, of course, compares the youthful potency of the German Reich with the aspic-frozen maturity of the British Empire. This play by writer/director Glenn Chandler, also the creator of the hit Scottish television police drama Taggart, chooses not to dress itself up in simplistic notions of good and evil, however.

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Following a little-known but true agreement by Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the British Scout movement, and Hitler’s then-ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop, exchange trips were organised between groups of Scouts and Hitler Youth in the name of cross-cultural understanding. This play deals in one such visit to Cambridgeshire in 1938, at a site located conveniently near a British air base.

Yet while there is a spy story subplot, which begins with the appearance of mysterious British officer John Dory (Lewis Allcock), it’s the relationships between the young men which resonate most strongly.

Gerhard (Clemente Lohr) is a devout Nazi, yet one whose suppressed homosexuality finds release with the lovelorn Brit Jacob (Charlie Mackay); while Will (Clement Charles) rues the usurping of his relationship with Jacob and a terrified Friedrich (Simon Stache) attempts to organise his own defection to the UK.

In the guise of a Boy’s Own adventure, the piece is expertly layered, discussing friendship, espionage, fanaticism, homosexual persecution, and gay love in an era when it really was forbidden.

Until 24 August.

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