By Herbie Stewart, Second Year Mathematics
If you want a ridiculous retelling of modern history, Adolf and Winston at the Tobacco Factory Theatres is solid confirmation that comedy theatre is a genuine, under-appreciated art. There is brilliant humour to be found in its topical relevance to our current political climate.
As someone who doesn’t engage in theatre often, I was undoubtedly entertained by what the production had to offer. No screen in the way, just two actors and a wonderfully enclosed stage with great lighting and sound.
The simplistic cast consists of the director, Craig Edwards, alongside actor Howard Coggins; two people writing and performing the entire play. The third member of the much-celebrated trio at the Tobacco Factory was unfortunately unable to act due to illness, but this doesn’t take away from the tight, well-drilled performance.
Edwards may not look much like Churchill, but he is clearly a very experienced, competent actor, and the obvious passion he has for his script is very much felt. His other half, the steely eyed Howard Coggins, plays a sinister but hilariously incompetent Hitler. Coggins shines in his role, glaring at the audience, at his co-star, at his props and at the floor. Together they fill the stage, which, when there’s only two of them, feels like a commendable achievement.
In places, the show is joyously funny. Most of its humour is taken from the stereotypes of the characters it looks at, from Hitler’s camp right-hand man to the angry Jewish leader of the Austrian school of fine art.
While these characters were undoubtably entertaining, I felt like I’d seen them before. The angry guy, the gay guy, the nagging wife to name a few. Hitler and Churchill were, of course, explored in finer detail and better for it, but it still felt like the play struggled to bring much more to these characters than what the audience knew so well already.
Fortunately, these are characters with enormous personalities, so the play never felt boring. For me, the more absurd, creative humour was where the play shone. A crisp packet being scrunched in place of radio static and a fight over stage lighting between the titular characters felt different and exciting. In these parts, and other unexpected moments, the play was at its best, and I was whisked away on the ridiculousness of it all. In a story so well-known this felt like a massive achievement, and it was these moments that I thought about after the show ended.
The story itself explores the before and after of World War two, presenting Churchill’s and Hitler’s characters in what felt like a packed and varied 75-minute runtime. Its sketches are littered with songs telling of our characters’ demons and triumphs.
Both men can sing admirably enough, and the diversity of the music, both in tone and subject, made each song a pleasant break from the acting. These songs had a spectrum of emotion too. I felt the pain in the black dog’s guitar as much as the allure of Churchill’s union jack underwear. Although the sparkle on the underwear did remain with me long after the show ended - it was really, really sparkly.
The highlight of the music was the fifteen-minute musical section explaining all the events of World War two around the midway point. It was ingenious in its concise, humorous, and almost educational summary of one of the most complicated periods of British History. I say almost educational, as I doubt Churchill was as adamant on securing credit for victory before America joined the war as this play led me to believe.
Overall, Adolf and Winston was a funny, surprising and entertaining performance, but it was the theatre experience that drew me in - the lights, the acting, the music.
Theatre needs more attention from younger generations and, if Adolf and Winston was anything to go by, it deserves it as well.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Herbie Stewart
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