Adolf

Written and performed by Pip Utton
Customs House, South Shields
(2002)

I first saw Adolf at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1998. Pip Utton has revived it at subsequent Fringes, but I chose not to see it again, feeling that I should look at new work and new productions. However every revival has sold out, so when it was booked at the Customs House, I felt here was my chance to see if it retains its original impact.

It has changed since 1998. It has been updated -

What? a play about the last hours of Adolf Hitler updated? Is there new historical evidence we haven't heard of? But wait a few moments and you'll see what I mean

- and redirected. The new director is Guy Masterson, he of so many successful shows at the Assembly Rooms and the winner of last Fringe's Best Actor award from "The Stage".

Adolf doesn't stop with the death of Hitler. Utton goes on to explore modern manifestations of Hitler's use of scapegoats, and, in a frightening short scene, he spews forth an horrendous flood of hatred, from the Balkans to Ruanda, from Israel to Afghanistan, from Ireland to... Well, you get the picture: it is, unfortunately, all too common.

What is particularly horrifying is that the cleverly constructed second half carries us along so that we find ourselves nodding or laughing until the realisation begins to dawn that we are being led by the nose, just as the German people were in the 1930s. Hitler is alive and well and living in us! Suddenly you could sense the audience's discomfort as they realised how they had been manipulated. It was a salutory lesson for us all.

But not everyone - thank goodness! - is so easily led. One man walked out, shouting, "You are not a fair man!" and refused to be pacified, and Utton tells the story of how, at one performance in a studio venue, one woman walked up to him and punched him in the face.

But these are exceptions. The seductiveness of Utton's performance sucks in the majority and even I, who had seen it before, felt that siren call. The small audience - sadly little more than quarter of the house - left stunned. It's a very uncomfortable piece of theatre which forces us to acknowledge our own darker side, as well as giving an insight into the charm and persuasiveness of the man who was probably the greatest monster of the twentieth century.

Shortly Pip Utton heads off to give a series of performances in Berlin. That should prove interesting!

Peter Lathan