Mengele, George Square Theatre (The Box), Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Smokescreen Productions
Philip Wharam and Tim Marriott (writers), Rachel Price (sound and lighting).
Tim Marriot (Mengele), Emma Wingrove (Azra) (Stefanie Rossi from 7th).
Running time

Nearly 40 years ago a man lies washed up on the long, curved beach of a Brazilian resort. In his mind the sands of time run further back, as he seems haunted by disturbing dreams from another lifetime some 40 years before.

These images are played out in projection behind him; great hulking steam trains deposit hordes of disposed people. “Leave your luggage on the platform” blares out. They will have no need for it, as this is the end of the line - Auschwitz-Birkenau.

He recovers to find an enigmatic young woman watching over him. His saviour from drowning he presumes, and he deserves to be saved, for he is a doctor, called to be a saver of lives, to have a duty to the living. So begins a conversation as she tries to place him, to make a record. Perhaps he has a chance to save his life further, to write things down for evidence, to speak of the truth that only he seems to know. Perhaps share some regrets, redress some sins?

He remains stoic, “what’s done is done … there is no soul” he says as he speaks of his admiration of German philosophers Nietzsche, Heidegger and Schiller. It’s a long time since he has been appreciated, and “I have saved so many people”, he repeats. As a doctor he has power over life and death, and he remains proud of his great project to cleanse the world, to instil order. Someone had to be strong.

As she leads him in a dance to draw him out he rails against treating the non-productive, the undeserving who use the world’s finite resources. “Who are we to deny death?” And in his redeemer he may have met his match and found his answer.

The play works well to slowly expose the man, not painting him directly as a monster but as self-righteous, with the superficial charm of a sociopath. This is at its most chilling when brought up to date and his irrational thoughts are equated with the modern buzz word of “sustainable”. The rational debate between the two characters leaves space for strong performances, but its structure does lack a little tension and the end is, of course, telegraphed. The physicality of the conclusion is a little overdone.

It’s an effective, thought provoking piece of theatre and serves not just as testimony to the past but as a warning for the future.

Show Times: 2nd-8th, 10th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 18th, 20th, 22nd, 24th, 26th August 2018 at 12.20pm.

Tickets: £12 (£11) £10 (£9).

Suitability: 12+