How often have you wanted to have one of your heroes sit on your shoulder and tell you how to make decisions about your life? Wouldn't it be nice, just occasionally, to have George Calombaris in the kitchen while you cook, chatting and offering helpful advice? Or to have the ever-so-experienced Henry VIII providing his support during a marital spat? Decision-making would be so much easier with such a support mechanism in place. As long as you were willing to surrender something of your own will to this mentor.
Doctor Paul Langley, lecturer in theology, finds himself in just such an enviable position. Lecturing on the morality of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, with access to the dead man himself in more or less corporeal form, Langley faces a personal dilemma not unlike Bonhoeffer's political one. Lies, Love and Hitler confronts its audience right from the start with the question of whether you would kill Hitler, given the chance; or whether you would feel that his murder would undermine your own moral integrity. From this intense philosophical starting point, however, the audience is lowered into Langley's world where his ethical aproach to his students is about to be tested by love.
As a relationship develops between Langley and student Hannah, Bonhoeffer mentors Langley not only in the intricacies of love but also the principles of deception. The maze of ethical dilemmas Langley faces in his personal life are mirrored by Bonhoeffer's political efforts. Perhaps not surprisingly - though I wouldn't have expected it - this theologian caught on the wrong side of his country's argument in the most significant conflict of the twentieth century offers much of relevance to our highly individualised society in the twenty-first century.
Writer Elizabeth Avery Scott has produced a delicately textured work that explores philosophical and ethical matters within the solid grounding that a strong plot provides. The story of Langley and Hannah is expertly juxtaposed with Bonhoeffer's own, and the interwoven stories are balanced brilliantly to provoke examination of Bonhoeffer's theological teachings.
James Scott not only presents a convincing Langley but also provides the various extra roles in Bonhoeffer's story, and maintains a stage presence that belies the adoption of diverse characters. Hanna Cormick likewise provides Bonhoeffer's lover Maria for a moment as well as the uptight sexual harassment investigator in between her highly sophisticated delivery of her main character; Langley's student, Hannah Summers. And despite the difficulty of maintaining a somewhat stereotyped German accent for almost the entire performance, Dallas Bland provides the ever-present Bonhoeffer after his brief cameo as another student. This cast has been expertly brought together by Director P.J. Williams, and the strength of the ensemble is matched only by the set and lighting designs.
The great strength of this play, however, lies in the story it tells, and the way in which it is told. Lies, Love and Hitler boasts a sobriety that is not often associated with love stories. The myth that lies and love cannot coexist is deftly refuted with this story that pushes moral and ethical boundaries and really tests their mettle.
A CADA Studio production
LIES, LOVE AND HITLER
by Elizabeth Avery Scott
Venue: Street Two, The Street Theatre, 15 Childers St, Canberra City West
Dates/Times: Thursday 18 November – Saturday 27 November @ 7.30pm
Twilight shows: Friday 19, 26 & Sunday 21 @ 6pm
Tickets: $25/ $20/ $18
Bookings: 6247 1223 | www.thestreet.org.au