A lot of solo theatre shows grace the Fringe listings.
Solo work is often more intense and intimate, whether it be theatre, comedy, cabaret, spoken word or music.
Most of the solo work at the Fringe takes the form of stand-up comedy. If you’re looking for that, then head over to our Comedy page.
Here you’ll find the other genres, covered, especially theatre, spoken word and cabaret.
Co-writer and performer Tim Marriott from Smokescreen Productions talks about Mengele
What’s the theme of your show?
Unmasking the face of evil. Josef Mengele was a Nazi doctor who used warped personal charm to shroud unspeakable brutality. It is vital for us to understand such men, to learn from history, to stand up to and stop others like them from rising again.
What’s new or unique about the show?
It is endorsed by the Amud Aish Memorial Museum of NY whose mission is to present the victim experience with specific focus on the role of faith and identity within the broader context of the annihilation of European Jewry. It is written to acknowledge a chilling truth… as Auschwitz survivor Lydia Tischler put it: “all of us have the capacity to be sadistic and horrible to other people. The potential for destructiveness is in all of us.”
Describe one of your rehearsals.
Rehearsal is intense and has to be carefully paced. Mengele was an unimaginably unapologetic, arrogant sociopathic narcissist and here he is confronted by the woman he sees as a beach beggar, but who is revealed at the end as Azrael, the Hebrew ‘Angel of Death’. Immersing ourselves in two very dark characters can be overwhelming. It is important to have keep perspective on what we are doing and focus on the basics of characterisation and physical movement and to talk about other things in the breaks. The background reading in preparation for this show was hard and very affecting. The regular updates from Amud Aish on Holocaust memories and anniversaries are important to acknowledge, but overwhelming in the reminding us of the responsibility we bear to get this right.
How is the show developing?
The show began as a commission for novelist Philip Wharam to adapt his novel, ‘Right to Live’. Before rehearsals began we took the company to Krakow to spend five days in and around Auschwitz-Birkenau. A vital undertaking to try and get to grips with the enormity of what we were tackling. We sought advice from the Holocaust Educational Trust who also read early drafts of the script and were influential in making us avoid presenting Mengele as a ‘monster’, easily discounted and disregarded, but seek instead to make him human, plausible and persuasive, arrogant, yes, but also charismatic and rooted in logic, even if such logic is subsequently revealed as perverse and perverted.
How has the writer been involved?
After a career in sitcom I left acting for many years to become a teacher. Approaching 60 I have decided that I want to return to the business to try and create thinking theatre. I was massively encouraged to do so by my co-writer Philip Wharam who made it a condition of the commission that I play Mengele – something I tried to wriggle out of as I felt that, after a break of 17 years, I would never be able to do the role justice and having got so close to the subject through 15 months of research and scripting, playing the man as well was a step too far. Phil was adamant, though, and made me do it. His encouragement and belief throughout the project, his commitment to the cause of Holocaust Memorial and learning the lesson of history has been vital and I am deeply grateful to him for his trust and belief, staying largely out of rehearsal but just appearing at the right moment to give a few words of encouragement and a humorous story or two over a glass of wine to lift the spirits.
How have you experimented?
The visit to Krakow enabled us to walk in the footsteps of Mengele. Rehearsing in our hotel in the evenings, geographically so close to the site of such atrocity was deeply humbling. Later on in New York we spent time in both the Holocaust Museum and the extraordinary Kleinman Education centre in Brooklyn, absorbing as much as we could, meeting some of the most inspiring people imaginable, including survivors and the relatives of survivors. We tell a story, but it is not our story. We are interpreting a character for an audience but in so doing carry a huge weight of responsibility. Therefore, to get even close to getting the right, it was important to immerse ourselves in the culture, experiences and memories of those who experienced this story first hand.
Where do your ideas come from?
Mengele is inspired by Wharam’s novel Right to Live and was created following advice from the Holocaust Educational Trust.
How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?
The project is deeply challenging in itself and emotionally very demanding as it is physically. In the final condemnation, I am literally destroyed on stage, which involves being thrown around the stage and ultimately crushed. This could be embarrassingly melodramatic and horrifically comic if not fully committed to and delivered with total emotional and physical investment. It is therefore important to be physically fit and mentally balanced. At my age, with limited reserves of energy and having left the security and structure of the ‘day job’, this is challenging and I run regularly, try to eat reasonably well and keep the faith.
What are your future plans for the show ?
To tour the show as it is but also to see further independent and commercial productions of the script.
What are your favourite shows, and why?
Challenging shows that entertain, of course, but that also encourage an audience to think, not in a didactic way or preaching to the converted but that asks questions, that provokes a conversation or two. To engage through humour, to buy the right to deliver a punch.
Show dates, times and booking info
Venue: Assembly George Square Theatre, The Box, EH8 9JZ (Venue 8)
Duration: 50 mins
Dates: 2-8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, August. Previews 2,3 August.
Tickets: Previews £10 (£9); 11-27 August £12 (£11);
Bookings: at https://bit.ly/2L2KijI or assemblyfestival.com. Call 0131 623 3030 or go to Assembly box offices at Assembly Hall and Assembly Roxy, Assembly George Square, Assembly Checkpoint and Assembly Rooms
Company web site: https://www.smokescreenprods.