Life, etc

Hit(ler) and miss: The Last Moustache

By Lesley Stones 12 August 2013

A play that started out as an academic exercise leaves LESLEY STONES rather puzzled.

Behind every monster lies, what? An impotent, rash-ridden man with digestive problems and a weakness for chocolate cake?

Everybody has their foibles, and those cracks in the armour are what make even a man as inhumane as Adolf Hitler inescapably human.

Hitler slaughtered millions of Jews and millions of others through his Nazi regime, and for decades people have questioned how he rose, and whether such a man could rise again.

That’s not the thread followed in The Last Moustache, which is a pity when these times of youthful unrest have prompted Agang leader Maphela Ramphele to compare Julius Malema to Hitler.

Instead The Last Moustache, written and directed by Greg Viljoen, surmises that Hitler actually died in an assassination, but the Nazi leaders hired a handful of actors to play the part and keep the Fuhrer and the war machine alive.

One of them was actor Heiner Schmidt (Tim Plewman) who we meet in a bunker in between public appearances as the Hitler look-alike.

The play began as a drama school challenge to write a one-man show based on a historical character. Viljoen says the first version was good but boring, so it was rewritten to emphasise the cracks in the character. It has since been pretty much completely rewritten in collaboration with Tim Plewman, once Viljoen realised that Plewman was perfect for the role.

Two things linger, though. One is a sense of this being a dramatical exercise in character exploration rather than a play with any particular relevance. Secondly, it’s a vehicle for Plewman, who at times is bigger than Schmidt, his character. “I perform every role as if it’s my last,” the character tells us. Plewman certainly does that too, but some scenes are overblown.

Viljoen also designed the effective set and costumes, which work very well. The actor speaks to the Hitler jacket he’s hung on a coat stand as he recounts incidents in Hitler’s life and the experiences of playing his double.

He tells how he came to get the role, how Hitler died but is being kept alive, and how Nazi leaders are plotting another push to conquer the crushing Russian onslaught against Berlin.

The premise is certainly entertaining and Plewman’s expressions and comic timing are perfect, although there’s not enough comedy in it to really label it as such. It’s satire, for sure, but a little thin on laughs and rarely taps into the sadder, more vulnerable emotions that could enrich the plot.

As the actor tells his story he lays several clues as to how it might all end, and as the finale draws near I’m trying to figure it out. Perhaps he’ll blow his brains out so there are no more fake Hitlers and the show cannot go on.

Then the show finishes, and I’m wondering what happened. Either I looked away at the crucial moment, or the ending was insufficiently apparent. I wasn’t the only one who missed it, so perhaps Viljoen must lay it on a little thicker to end the ambiguity. DM

The Last Moustache runs at The Market Theatre until September 1.

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