Inlingua Edinburgh @ 29 Hanover Street
August 12-26, 21.30
Returning for its third run at the Fringe, Hitler Alone is the thespy equivalent of Haydn’s Surprise Symphony. Don’t enter the Red Room anticipating a gentle doze in a corner to bypass the more tedious moments of this 75-minute monologue: you’re liable to be awoken with a sudden roar and a shower of spit as Paul Webster throws himself wholeheartedly (and often sensitively) into the mindset of a crazed, cornered dictator.
His achievement is impressive. Webster, combining the roles of playwright and actor, holds attention with polished finesse, interspersing softer passages, where Hitler recalls his love for ‘Mutti’, or his fondness for his Viennese roommate, with full-throated rants, tuneless singing, re-enactments of Nuremberg, or desperate hysterics as the suicidal Führer throws himself on all fours, pummelling the floor. If he weren’t portraying Hitler, one might be tempted to accuse Webster of melodrama; but given that the Nazi leader wasn’t renowned for understatement, perhaps such complaint is unfair.
Certainly, Webster exploits a full range of tone, pitch and volume, though his fruity accent and rolling ‘r’s (“I scrrrraped a thrrrreadbare existence!”) are less reminiscent of Hitler than of his much-maligned nemesis Churchill. Such Olivier-esque RPness makes his incursions into pointedly simplistic German rather incongruous, as well as irritating.
Webster’s account of Hitler’s history is wide-ranging and comprehensive, and he successfully colours his meticulous inclusion of rather tedious dates as a manifestation of the dictator’s obsessive nature. The script is crammed with impressive rhetoric and occasionally lyricism, though humour, understandably, is thin on the ground. I must admit with shame that my smile was broadest at the words “Time to go” – certainly, by the end of Hitler’s final rant, I’d had enough of him. But Webster is a performer of intense energy, and a degree of audience exhaustion is probably erwartet zu sein.