The Fringe may abound with envelope-pushing comedians and cabaret acts aiming to shock, but the most provocative man in Edinburgh could well be middle-aged actor Pip Utton.
Utton has become a Fringe staple, the master of the monologue. This year he is also appearing in two other original plays as Charles Dickens and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. But Adolf is almost certainly his most challenging performance.
The stage is dramatic yet stark – an illuminated Nazi banner, a chair and a table draped in red velvet with a flickering lamp and a glass of water. Hitler is awaiting the imminent fall of his empire from the safety of his bunker, and the audience are his party faithful. His farewell becomes a drawn-out monologue as he ruminates on his motivations and accomplishments.
Light and sound are used incredibly effectively here. Each time Hitler is carried away by his vision of a warped utopia, each time his strength and conviction are renewed, the lights go down, a spotlight is focused on Utton and his voice echoes as Hitler is swept up in his own sense of power.
This show is actually a perfect example of the end justifying the means. It is certainly one of the most challenging pieces of theatre you will ever see. At this performance a sizable chunk of the audience walked out, viciously heckling Utton in the process. Which only served to make the final denouement even more powerful.
This show is hateful, divisive, challenging, even monotonous in parts. It is horribly uncomfortable to watch. But whatever you do, stay until the bitter end. Otherwise you will be depriving yourself of one of the most powerful pieces of theatre you will ever see.
British Theatre Guide
On a darkly lit stage with only a small table and chair to break up the stark significance of the crimson Swastika banner hanging in a spotlit solitude behind the stage, Pip Utton gives us Adolf Hitler. Stepping onstage with a vibrant pace he commanded the attention of the entire room as the Fuhrer delivers his farewell speeches to his staff in his Berlin bunker, during the final hours of his life. Utton's portrayal of Adolf is cleverly paced as periodically his speeches and asides break into fully rallying speeches, complete with echoing reproduction as if the audience were standing in Nurenberg itself.
What is most effective about Adolf is the clever slip towards the end, as the tone of the piece radically shifts. Utton's transformation into his own voice and the subtle inversion of the concept is brilliantly constructed. Done so well in fact that sadly a few members of the audience left the auditorium, either in disgust or thinking the performance was finished. Luckily those who stayed till the end got to see a brilliantly chilling and ingenious piece of mastery which only goes to show the craftsmanship on display and certifies Utton's place as one of the premiere theatre performers working today.
I first came across Pip Utton last year in a show called In The Name Of The Father, quickly coming to realize that this was an actor of tremendous power who had the ability to scare his audience with as little as a stare or a whispered word. This year, Pip Utton is back. Back with a show that has been here before and indeed has been all around the world with great success. Audiences from all walks of life have flocked to see him. To see a great leader. To see Adolf.
Pip Utton is scary. At least he scares the hell out of me. But when he slips on that jacket, that hair and that moustache, he becomes something that truly does make your blood freeze and your soul shrivel like burnt paper. Utton’s performance is brilliant, outstanding and downright terrifying. You cannot tear your eyes away and your ears are hypnotised by his words, which are perfectly written and researched. The audience are his and, for a while, you believe in what he is saying, which is probably the most frightening thing about the entire experience.
There are shows about Hiroshima, the Holocaust and Hitler. “Do we really want to see that?”, I hear you ask. “Take a look at the world around you. Isn’t that enough?”. Perhaps. It’ s your choice. Some shows, however, do a lot more than simply regurgitate the past. Some shows make you look into yourself and confront thoughts and feelings that you didn’t even know you had. Thoughts and feelings that will show their ugly face when you least expect them unless you search them out and understand them. Theatre cannot (or should not) think for you. But it can make you aware. Adolf is one of those shows that do just that. A truly eye opening experience.
Reviewer Alex Eades.
British Theatre Guide
It is not often that an actor manages so brilliantly to blur the boundaries between staged performance and reality. Pip Utton can successfully do so.
Utton chillingly looks, moves and sounds like the 'Great Dictator' himself. He looks you straight in the eyes and you know it could be him, the most familiar face of evil glossed with charm. He lays out chapter and verse, like a skilled politician, or better still, like an outstanding QC defending a terrorist, making him sound logical, sensible , visionary and just in his cause. In his last hours in the bunker there is not a hint of defeatism. The backdrop of the large stage with its high ceiling is a large red banner bearing the swastika. He stands, paces and very occasionally sits by the single simple table on the side of the stage towards the front. The limelight is all on that single individual who transfixes all present with his oratory.
Adolf the man becomes far more reasonable than the Hitler we have learnt to detest. At the end of his demagoguery and in a surprising move Utton removes Adolf's masking gear, namely the wig, moustache and then his jacket with its swastika, sits casually on the edge of the table and asks the audience for a fag and beer. He sounds just like an old acquaintance in a pub. The transition is so craftily designed that you will be forgiven for thinking he is a friendly chap you can trust and that now we are just having a 'heart to heart' chat. We are now subjected to modern day racism which sounds as convincing as that of Hitler. Then a second monologue starts. It is here and now. This time Utton is justifying the previous character, namely Adolf, just to show us, in modern parlance, why there is a serious problem. "Did you know that since World War II, 35% of the British Cabinet ministers were Jewish?" He then rants about immigration, the country his father fought and died for in WW II, not the country we have now, certainly not the country invaded by foreigners. Utton gives expression to views many British people think yet refrain from airing, to avoid being branded as "racist" or offending political correctness. Utton's Adolf should travel beyond the fringe into every High School and be used as an important text in serious political, historical and social debates.
The stage is sparsely furnished with a desk, the eye instantly drawn to the vast swastika swathing the back wall. Pip Utton looks convincing as Adolf Hitler and his mannerisms are carefully observed and well executed. The show starts with a speech from Hitler, about his ideologies and plans for Germany. As the audience we are directly addressed as his loyal followers, and thus are made to feel complicit as he denigrates and abuses the Jews, the gypsies, the Slavs and the homosexuals. While the first half of the play is interesting in parts, it feels over-long, and as though we are being subjected to a reading of Mein Kampf. The content is interesting, but the same effect could have been achieved in half the time.
However the show comes into its own in the second half. Pip comes out of character and begins some light banter with the audience. However, soon the chatter becomes more serious and he begins to touch on issues such as colonialism, asylum seekers, and immigrant workers. Light-hearted at first the things he starts to say become really shocking, even more so because they are things you hear every day in the media, and on the streets. By the end, the fuehrer's mannerisms are back, but it is Pip talking and contemporary issues being cited. This play is a clever and thought provoking piece of theatre, well worth going to see.
Pip Utton's one man play "Adolf" was first performed at the Fringe in 1997, winning him a nomination for best actor award by The Stage. Since then it has toured the world - including Hong Kong, India, Australia and Berlin - as one of the most successful solo shows of the last decade. Ten years on, Adolf is back in town. The spectre of Adolf Hitler is closer than we think. We meet him in the bunker near the end of his regime. At first he seems weakened, almost beaten as he rails against his generals who have abandoned him, but he has a message for us. The audience are drawn in, complicit as he refers to us as his friends, the party faithful who have stayed by him. "Sit up straight" he instructs as he delivers a calculated guide to rebuilding the cause. The tools are brutal, uncompromising, manipulating and ultimately beyond reason. Now the orator, he stirs to a rousing explanation of his pre-ordained role, his destiny. While we know his techniques for winning hearts and minds, he is transfixing, the reasoning beguiling. "How can it be wrong when we put the German people first?" he demands as he lists his triumphs and rages against the Jewish conspiracy. With a simple loosening of the tie he starts the transformation to an avuncular cheeky-chappie, cadging a fag and a beer. He jokes about modern conflicts, asylum seekers, his vision for a green and pleasant land and we are challenged whether we haven't had similar thoughts. The little Hitlers are still out there just waiting to be let in. In humanising a monster Pip Utton has created a piece of mind-bending theatre.
(one4review.com - 07/08/07)
Pip Utton's portrayal of Adolf Hitler in his final days in 1945 is convincing and frightening. Hitler is addressing his most loyal followers in his personal staff exhorting them never to let go of the dream of creating a dominant, racially pure German. Two sides of Hitler are portrayed. All his prejudices are revealed in their crudely perceived logic. There is the ranting demagogue; "Death solves all problems". Thus the Jewish race must be exterminated as the scapegoat for Germany's enfeebled position at the end of World War I.
There is the beguiling human side in his regard for Eva Braun and the absolute loyalty of those closest to him. Suddenly, the ranting Adolf ends and Pip Utton drops the Hitler role, discarding the moustache and wig. The lights come up. He talks to the audience apparently as himself, easy going and humorous. There is a noticeable easing of tension.
However, he takes on a darker mood as he expresses the racial views of an ordinary man. Hitler may have perished in 1945 but his racist spirit lives on and may be seen in many guises, perhaps in all of us.
Adolf is a powerful drama raising issues about what lies lurking at the core of the human personality and how readily it can be manipulated.
"Terrifying, searing, transfixing... It is quite impossible to be anything other than totally absorbed by Utton's performance. 'Adolf' reaffirms the need and worth of political theatre." (The Scotsman 12/08/98)
"If you only see one show on the Fringe, see 'Adolf'" (BBC Radio 4 Kaleidoscope 17/08/98)
"Utton breathes life into Hitler, realising the threat of fascism anew. This is atmospheric, emotional stuff... and a cautionary tale to boot. It caresses its way into your confidence and then chokes you on your own laughter" (The List 19/08/99)
"The sting is in the tail. Hitler is alive in nineties Britain... an ever present malignancy... Unashamedly theatre with a message, with a vengeance... A tour de force" (The Stage 10/08/98)
"Utton's superb performance makes the Führer tangible yet terrifying. This is an extremely clever warning. Truly powerful theatre." (The Herald 12/08/99)