Video: Henry Naylor doesn’t hold back in new Fringe play Games

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When Henry Naylor brought his sell-out show ‘Borders’ to last year’s Fringe, he made waves as one of only a handful of playwrights honing in on the migrant crisis.

And so the multi-award winning British playwright hasn’t held back on talking about the bigger issues of our time at this year’s Fringe either, with his new play ‘Games.’

A gripping social commentary, which focuses on the dangers of prejudice, anti-Semitism and the hard-right, ‘Games’ is based on the true but forgotten story of a courageous young Jewish athlete who stood up defiantly to the Nazis.

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‘Games’ follows Helene Mayer, a fencer who was victorious in 1928 as Olympic champion, but unsuccessful in 1932 after the sudden death of her boyfriend two hours before the competition.

But despite the trauma, Hitler’s attempts to ban Jews from the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, and her blonde hair and blue eyes - the antithesis of what the Nazis deemed to make a typical Jew - Mayer was unabashed and went on to grab a silver medal.

“Bizarrely, and very unfortunately, many of the themes that came out in [Mayer’s] story in 1936 are coming back, which is an horrific state of affairs,” said Naylor.

Naylor continued, saying: “The growth of right-wing, extremist populism is genuinely concerning. So few people are tackling this issue. It’s everybody’s problem.”

Naylor came up with the idea for the play last year over an impromptu post-performance pint with Avital Lvova, who portrays Mayer in the production.

Naylor was keen to find a story which had parallels with the personality and background of the Berlin-raised Lvova, who is Jewish herself.

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“We were stuck in a bar, saying ‘You know, [Avital] is German, Jewish, and built like an athlete.’ We Googled those three attributes, and this story of Helene Mayer came back,” said Naylor.

But whilst dealing with intensely complex issues, Games is a play which touches and moves.

Lvova said: “You’ll find that in Henry’s shows there are always those beautiful comedic moments.

“It takes a lot of skill to connect the tragedy and the comedy,” she added. “If you find the perfect balance, this how you get to people’s hearts.”

• Games by Henry Naylor will be on every day at 4.30pm 16-27 August in the Gilded Balloon Teviot Dining Room