Theatre review: Schicklgruber, Alias Adolf Hitler, Traverse

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NEXT week at the Traverse, Vox Motus revives its 2008 masterpiece of Scottish puppet theatre, Slick, as the final show of this year’s Manipulate Festival of visual theatre.

Schicklgruber ... Alias Adolf Hitler

Traverse, Edinburgh

* * * *

But the international element of the festival powered to a close on Saturday night, with a single packed performance by Stuffed Puppet Theatre of the Netherlands – aka solo theatre-maker Neville Tranter – set in Hitler’s Berlin bunker during the last days of the Third Reich.

First performed almost a decade ago, Schicklgruber... Alias Adolf Hitler is a fiercely vivid dance of death, featuring Tranter in a superbly understated human performance as the bunker servant Linger, who has to deal as best he can with the terrible range of puppet grotesques who represent the other bunker residents – the Führer himself, Eva Braun, Joseph Goebbels and his six doomed children, the vastly corpulent Hermann Goering, and a hideous, bedizened joker-figure, the leering image of death itself.

There are moments when Tranter doesn’t seem quite in control of the balance between tragic and comic-grotesque elements in the story.

Some of the audience on Saturday found the camp death-figure so hilarious that they barely stopped laughing throughout.

The odd blurring of tone apart, though, this is a fascinating show, which uses superbly-made puppet figures to meditate on some huge political and human themes, including the banality of evil, the barrenness of power achieved by lies and force, and the fundamental absurdity of death itself, which takes all the infinite structure of memory and thought that makes up a human being, and snuffs it out, from one second to the next.