Printable CopyMENGELE
Guy Masterson's Centre for International Theatre (CIT)
Bakehouse Theatre
Until 17 Mar 2018

Review by Sarah Westgarth

In 1979 at a beach in Brazil, an elderly man is washed up on the shore after taking his morning swim. There he meets a local woman, with whom he begins a conversation about his life. What unfolds is a harrowing and haunting exploration of the justification of evil, as the true nature of the man is revealed. It’s a powerful piece of theatre, played out in an extended dialogue between the two characters.

Tim Marriott’s commanding performance is a complex character study that captivates and horrifies. He is confronted by Stefanie Rossi’s character, an enigmatic local peasant, who gently questions him, forcing him to probe into his beliefs. Throughout the course of the play, he slowly reveals his outlook of the world, and what he believes his role is in improving it. It is shocking, even when we, on the other side of history, already know the details. The dialogue is dense, loaded with philosophical and anthropological ideas, and it moves at a frantic pace. Both performers take full control of the loaded dialogue, creating a palpable, enigmatic tension between them. While Marriott plays the titular character, and his work is a masterclass in the portrayal of that deadly combination of narcissism and charm, Rossi’s stage presence is the perfect counterpart; she is mostly calm as she listens to him speak of concepts such as “racial hygiene”, yet her performance is complex and nuanced. Despite her bemused expression, there is an edge on her voice, and her subtle prompting is what starts to unravel the seemingly powerful man.

“Mengele” was created with the support of the Holocaust Educational Trust, and aims to highlight the horrors that can occur when bigotry and prejudice are allowed to thrive. Perhaps we’d like to believe that we have learned from the past and are now somehow more evolved as humans, but the play argues that it is all too easy to justify hatred in the name of doing what is “right.” It’s confronting in all the right ways – the first time Marriott says the word “Aryan” there was a palpable chill in the air – and is a stark reminder of the importance of standing against injustice in whatever form it comes, so men like Josef Mengele never have power again.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)