Based on true events, Hitler’s Tasters stages the story of young women conscripted to serve their country during the Third Reich – three times a day, every day. Josephine Balfour-Oatts reviews:

Hitler’s Tasters touts an unlikely subject for comedy, and yet it succeeds – brilliantly.

Written by Michelle Kholos Brooks, the play brings to light a dusty footnote in European history. During the Third Reich, young women “of good German stock” were conscripted to serve their country three times a day, every day. Their duties demanded that they eat the same food due to be served to the Fuhrer himself, to confirm that it was safe for consumption. Every morsel that they eat could be their last. Served by members of the SS, the women were also forced to wait for one hour post-meal, in case their food has been poisoned.

Hitlers Tasters Greenside
Image courtesy of Cody Butcher

Hitler’s Tasters gives particular focus to these windows in the girls’ daily lives: stretches suffused with boredom, as well as perpetual fear. Played by the captivating Mary Katherine Kopp, Hilda is the jealous type. Her blonde hair flies about her shoulders like a dressage pony, blue eyes touched by scorn for her fellow colleagues. A piercing American accent is batted back and forth across a dining table, a tennis match ferocious enough to demonstrate the sheer skill at play within Brooks’ script.

Taking selfies becomes a sport in itself. Using this chorus of young women – each with an iPhone stuck to their hand like another appendage – Brooks hauls this story into the present day. When a band of militant footsteps interrupts their adolescent frenzy, terror sets in. Choreographed transitions work to maintain this tension, as well as keeping the energy onstage at a constant high. Small details – undergarments stitched with swastikas, thank you Christina Tang – add intrigue, as well as a strong comedic device.

Hitlers Tasters Greenside
Hitler’s Tasters

Choosing to have inactive members of the cast sitting at the side of the stage seems a curious one. The ending too feels abrupt, though this might be because the production could easily be double the length.

Hitler’s Tasters needs more legroom; a bigger theatre, a bigger crowd. Here, death is always on the menu. But instead of table d’hôte, let’s make it à la carte.

★★★★☆

Hitler’s Tasters is now playing at Greenside @ Infirmary Street until 24 August 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.