Archive for Holocaust

Hitlerhoff review on Artshub, by Cecilia Mitchell

Posted in media, publicity, reviews with tags , , , , , , , on 7 October, 2008 by hitlerhoff

The result of two years research for a creative writing Masters thesis, the script of Fringe Festival play Hitlerhoff is brilliant. It is packed with one-liners, discomforting holocaust jokes, pop culture references (Dr Phil-style ‘follow your dreams’ clichés and the best of John Williams’ film scores) and literati send-ups (Waiting for Godot becomes a trilogy: Return of the Godot and The Godot Strikes Back).

Writer Tom Doig merges the personas of Adolf Hitler and David Hasslehoff to create a character so grotesque and bizarre you will laugh out loud and cringe with disgust.

The title role is played with incredible energy and commitment by Tobias Manderson-Galvin, who takes the character from his upbringing as an aspiring actor by a doting yet insipid mother and a father who calls him a ‘homo-fraulein’ in ‘leather panties’ through a series of increasingly hysterical attempts to give expression to his extreme egoism and misunderstood artistic genius.

Supporting Manderson-Galvin are Simone Page Jones and Ezra Bix, both excellent. Bix delivers the funniest moment of the play with a side-splitting portrayal of the Artistique Director of Juilliard Academy, who after an unsuccessful audition calls Hitlerhoff a philistine and implores him never to perform in public, ever. Hitlerhoff is crushed again and again.

Taunted by his nemesis, The Red Tide (of Communism), Hitlerhoff is told that his jokes are not funny, his irony not clever and his homophobia and sexism reveal infantile Oedipal tendencies. Humiliated but undeterred, Hitlerhoff’s desire for fame and glory turns to resentment and rage.

Exploring themes of mass hysteria, propaganda and consumer culture, Hitlerhoff plays on the danger and ridiculousness of the human desire to be ‘special’ and ‘make a difference’. Images of the actual ‘special treatment’ experienced by six million Jews during the Second World War are juxtaposed with the raucous antics of a cast in Baywatch swimsuits, making for chilling and thought-provoking satire.

Performances nightly from Tue 7th – Saturday 11th October, 10:15pm at North Melbourne Town Hall. Log on to www.hitlerhoff.com for details.
www.melbournefringe.com.au or phone (03)9658 9658

Cecilia Mitchell is Editor in Chief of Right Now – Human Rights Law in Australia Magazine. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Music and is currently studying a Juris Doctor at The University of Melbourne.

E: editor@artshub.com.au
W: http://www.rightnow.org.au

original context of this review: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news.asp?sId=174358&ref=hubber

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Laughter Must Not Be Outlawed

Posted in ethics of representing Hitler with tags , , , , , , , , , on 4 September, 2008 by hitlerhoff

(this is from a few months ago, and goes over some of the same ground – as does the articles it responds to! Since the Age haven’t published my responses, the good old double-u-double-u-double-u comes to the rescue!)

Tom Doig

874 words

The uninspired “controversy” over Melbourne artist Sam Leach’s recent self-portrait-as-Hitler only draws attention to how entrenched and uncompromising attitudes on both sides of the Hitler / Holocaust debate have become.

Both the Jewish community’s knee-jerk outrage (“Holocaust survivors are not laughing”, March 1st, 2008) and Mr Leach’s half-hearted “defence” of his portrait leave much to be desired. At the heart of this latest Fuhrer-furore is a fundamental question about what we are allowed to remember – and what we are allowed to forget, or ignore.

Mr Abramovich makes some good points about the need for “great sensitivity and understanding” when representing historical events. But the cheapening, commercialising and commodifying” of our popular culture is not confined to the Holocaust. Far from it; pop culture is distorting all aspects of our history, all the time.

Larissa Dubecki points out that while artists are not permitted to make ironic comments about Hitler, nearly everyone else is fair game (“One man’s evil is another’s pop culture”, March 4th). Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot have all been responsible for crimes against humanity. They are also the subject of countless amusing, offensive pop-culture piss-takes. Should all mockeries of Mao be banned as well? Similarly, if Nazi figurines are morally unacceptable to Mr Abramovich, why should US-made GI Joe or Action Man toys be any less so?

If we were sincerely concerned about respecting the feelings of victims, we could not be irreverent about any of the world’s catastrophes. Banning all war and Holocaust-related movies would wipe out much of Hollywood’s back catalogue. Goodbye The Killing Fields; so long Borat; sayonara to The Pianist.

What we’re talking about here is censorship. Following Mr Abramovich’s suggestions to ban all representations of Hitler that might produce “a feel-good reaction, cosiness or comfort” leads us towards a censorship regime Joseph Goebbels would be familiar with.

While there is nothing remotely funny about the worst of Hitler’s actions, this should not exempt him from the distorting lens of pop-culture – and from ridicule. As a postgraduate student, I have spent the past 14 months researching and writing an MA about the ethical implications of satirising Hitler. The subject is a minefield, but artists continue to use humour to come to terms with it, and for good reason.

Over 60 years after WW2 and the Holocaust, we have inherited a cultural legacy of trauma, grief and guilt, that today’s generation still needs to deal with. Laughter is one of humankind’s basic psychological coping mechanisms; it can make life seem bearable, even if it can’t make it better.

Making fun of the Fuhrer – as Charlie Chaplin, Bertolt Brecht, and many other serious artists have done over the years – provides a sense of catharsis, for Jew and Gentile alike. It also helps to discredit Nazi mythology, and to counter the lingering appeal of fascism.

Mel Brooks, director of The Producers (1968), claims that “by using the medium of comedy, we can try to rob Hitler of his posthumous power”. Dani Levy, director of Mein Fuhrer: the Truly Truest Truth about Adolf Hitler (2007), believes that “comedy is more subversive than tragedy”. This arguably makes it more effective at removing the aura of seriousness, and power, from the legacy of Hitler.

Both of these films take the piss out of Hitler, mercilessly. Both of these directors are Jewish. Surely they must have a right to express the trauma of their ancestors in their own way, even if Mr Abramovich is not amused.

However, this does not mean that Sam Leach’s Fuhrer-portrait is an insightful comment on Hitler, fascism or the continuing threat of genocide. It isn’t. Unlike Brooks’ and Levy’s films, Leach’s portrait captures all the glamour and sinister seductiveness of the fascist aesthetic – and “ironically” transfers this glamour onto himself. No matter how postmodern the portrait is, it also serves to reinforce the myth of Hitler’s power.

Leach claims that “we can’t take for granted that Nazism can’t happen again”. Sure. However, if he really wanted to make a timely point about the worst effects of Nazism – genocide and war – he has missed quite an opportunity.

Since 1998, the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has caused an estimated 5.4 million deaths (according to an International Rescue Committee survey), making it the worst conflict since World War 2. In Darfur the UN estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed since 2003, while approximately 2.5 million people have been permanently displaced, and are at risk of starvation.

Of course, the Congolese and Sudanese communities don’t have to complain about disrespectful pop-culture representations of their suffering, because hardly anyone is bothering to represent it.

The Holocaust was, and remains, the most large-scale incident of genocide in human history. However, it not the only event of its kind, and it should not be allowed to monopolise our sense of genocide-guilt. If just some of the outrage that is expended on artistic representations of Hitler and the Holocaust was matched by a similar level of commitment to end wars and genocides occurring right now, the world would surely be a better place.

And as for Sam Leach – well, I’ve just given him some more free publicity. Which was, no doubt, his actual intention. Good luck with the Archibald, Sammy.