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BWW Review: CAMP SIEGFRIED, Old Vic

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Inspired by the real Nazi camp, which operated on New York's Long Island in the 1930s

BWW Review: CAMP SIEGFRIED, Old Vic BWW Review: CAMP SIEGFRIED, Old Vic The Old Vic stages the world premiere of American playwright Bess Wohl's Camp Siegfried. This two-hander drama is directed by Katy Rudd and depicts a budding romance at a real-life fascist summer camp for young German-Americans operating on New York's Long Island in the 1930s.

On the brink of the Second World War, boy meets girl at Camp Siegfried. They quickly realise how much they have in common, which - along with the endless hours they have to spend together - almost makes them feel like they are pulled together by fate. But, in fact, it is something far more sinister than that.

The boy - billed simply as Him - seems to have a deeper understanding of the camp's motives and explains that they are encouraged to be "social" for breeding purposes. Eventually, this makes the girl, Her, wonder if he only picked her because she was an easy target and he was desperate to prove himself - Her being an awkward, overthinking wallflower and Him good-humoured, stereotypically handsome and athletic.

As their relationship develops they become dangerously consumed by the camp's ideological preaching that will ultimately threaten to destroy them, and set the worldwide stage for global atrocity, devastation and genocide. It's a gripping story of infatuation and indoctrination, with the youthful romance being an allegory for the blind faith so many were brainwashed to feel for Nazism.

The message we are left with is to always be critically aware and not to get caught up in the moment or seduced by populist sentiment. When selected to make a speech to thousands on behalf of Camp Seigfried, Her preaches to"make America great again", similar to Donald Trump in his successful 2016 presidential campaign.

The set is minimalist, and ultimately the stage feels a little too large and empty for the intimacy of this text. Luckily, Patsy Ferran and Luke Thallon have more than enough skill and talent to bring Wohl's clever and poetic script to life.

Ferran triumphs again after her Olivier Award-winning performance in Summer and Smoke, once more displaying her remarkable ability to bring humour to drama and depict multi-layered individuals. Thallon doesn't miss a beat, intently listening and reacting to her every nuanced emotion. He too proves to be a deeply intelligent actor, effectively portraying a complex mix of arrogance and innocence, pride and self-hatred throughout his character's journey.

Camp Siegfried has sombre themes and a menacing backdrop, but, over 90 minutes, supplies a compelling story filled with light and shade. This is high-quality work by a team of extraordinarily bright creatives.

Camp Siegfried runs at the Old Vic until 30 October

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan


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