By the time we have packed into the Olive Studio, a week into the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Hitler’s Tasters is already one of the hits of the season. The tickets are hard to come by and, I must admit, I am sceptical that the production can live up to the hype. The concept is simple – the play is about the girls conscripted to taste Hitler’s food, but the execution is far cleverer than that.
It is first and foremost worth noting that Hitler’s Tasters is raucously entertaining. Writer Michelle Kholos Brooks expertly treads the line of good taste. She is whip-crack witty. Every laugh is well placed and brilliantly managed. The risk with such dark subject matter is that the humour will go too far, that the audience with grimace rather than laugh, but this is never the case in this play. The humour is natural, in keeping with the theatrical world but never predictable. Brooks’ script is impeccable. It is thoughtful, funny and poignant.
As the tasters themselves, MaryKathryn Kopp, Hallie Griffin, Kaitlin Paige Longoria and Hannah Mae Sturges are impeccable players for the story. They employ the energy of their young characters. There is a wild romance and a passionate excitement to each action, underpinned by the foreboding sense of the cultural context. All four manage to present innocence, vitality and an underlying fear of their own humanity. Sympathy becomes almost a curse word as they engage with the troubling events around them. Each character is distinct yet at one with the unit.
Sarah Norris’ direction has created an entirely believable theatrical world in which the four girls gathered around the table might be entirely modern girls in historical costume. They dance (freewheeling costume changes choreographed by Ashlee Wasmund), they take selfies, and they gush about Hitler’s dog. Norris has captured all the ambiguity and humanity of living under a fascist regime. The simple moment of a light turning on becomes terrifying under her careful touch.
Ultimately, the production succeeds because it is a perfect knit of several elements. It is dynamic, hilarious and slightly unnerving. The unsettling feeling is as much to do with the brilliance of the writing, as it is the political landscape it is performed in. Hitler’s Tasters provides a beautiful framing of youth in a time of fear and misinformation. Nothing could be more relevant or more perfectly presented.
Hitler’s Tasters is playing Greenside, Infirmary Street until 25 August. For more information and tickets, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.