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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Being Sophie Scholl

Acting Coach Scotland

Genre: Biographical Drama, Historical, New Writing, Theatre

Venue: Space Surgeons' Hall - Annexe


Low Down

Some German citizens said no to Nazism


Today Germany is a modern, progressive, inclusive nation, who could teach plenty of other countries a thing or two about the value of democratic institutions. Sadly, as everyone knows, it was not always that way : Hitler’s Third Reich lasted a dozen or so of their projected thousand years in the 1930’s and 40’s, but managed in that time to inflict catastrophic misery on millions of people, the detail of which is not always widely known. This included terrorising their own citizens. Free speech was effectively nullified with penalties for infraction being the severest possible. Conviction for ‘treason’ would frequently be summarily followed by execution ; furthermore, under the terms of Sippenhaft legislation (or kin punishment), members of the guilty party’s family could also be punished.

After many initial spectacular successes, the tide of World War 2 had turned against Germany by Stalingrad and it was now facing an inevitable, crushing, defeat. Yet its leaders refused to capitulate, prepared to cause the deaths of yet millions more. Different types of resistance developed, including those famously associated with Operation Valkyrie. A group within Nazi Germany called White Rose emerged, to offer passive resistance, which would of course have dreadful consequences for any of those discovered.

It is within this context that we meet the Scholl family. Hans and his sister Sophie are part of White Rose in Munich. They print and distribute resistance material, aspiring to shorten the war. Their family were ideologically opposed to the war, although in some cases, as was the case also with Sophie’s boyfriend, had served their country. Sophie (played by Holly Allan, Rachel Gilmour and Emma Rogers) and Hans (Alexander McGarrie) go to Munich University to distribute leaflets but are arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo agent Mohr (Adam James Johnston). Some sparring between Sophie and Mohr ensues but, like all the resistance plots, it proves futile, with a tragic conclusion. The ensemble, including Barry Morrell, make a fine job of bringing this little-known story to life. The acting is consistent, the relationships believable and the piece is directed by Nick Field insightfully and with a light touch.

Edinburgh Fringe has been littered with shows about Nazi Germany, understandably, as the impact of this short time dictated the political landscape in Europe for a further half a century and no life during the Nazi era  was untouched. So, why might a Fringe audience look at this show ? Well, its significance is as poignant today as it was then : how can individuals resist in the face of oppression ? Can they make a difference and what will be the consequences ? Russian journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza was imprisoned this year for 25 years for criticising Putin’s regime. Greta Thunberg goes to protests knowing in advance she faces arrest. Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion continue to protest despite the U.K.’s recent Public Order Act, believing that they are on the right side of history. Would you be as courageous as Sophie Scholl ?