A bit of a Democracy picspam. Though this is a production from 2003, I managed to watch it two weeks ago due to the rather wonderful National Theatre archive. I went to see it because I’m quite madly in love with Roger Allam- who I discovered first through Cabin Pressure and then through his wonderful singing- and I came out in love with Allam’s character, the former West German leader Willy Brandt and even more in love with Allam.
At first the play looked to be rather dry- men in suits talking about post war German politics in an office, not the most inspiring of summaries- but then… wow. There was just so much in it; love, lust, friendship, betrayal, heroism, espionage and all the homoeroticism a person could desire.
I had previously thought that the most hypnotic thing about Allam was his voice, but he doesn’t actually do all that much speaking in this role (though, the speaking he does do is utterly sublime. He does some wonderful accents). His every action, look and gesture, however, left me entirely transfixed. And his eyes; I’d never realised how dark and expressive they were until I found myself staring into them.
It’s well, well worth seeing if you’re in London for a few hours. The archive is free to use and you need only e-mail to book; you don’t even need a reason other than a desire to watch the play.
Here are some pictures from the National Theatre’s 2000 production of Albert Speer and, yes, that’s Roger Allam as Hitler. For those of you lucky enough to be within range of London, this production can be watched for free at the National Theatre Archive, as can Democracy, which I have done a post about here. Allam is probably the most versatile actor I have ever had the pleasure of watching perform and here is a further example of this: for an actor to have played both Hitler and Willy Brandt with absolute conviction and to critical acclaim is a feat indeed.
Allam’s Hitler, as with any portrayal, could so easily have been a caricature, but in this play the audience is forced to face a few uncomfortable truths about human nature. Albert Speer and millions of other men and women loved Hitler and not because he was an evil genius, but in Speer’s words, “because the Führer gave us the feeling that he loved us.” And so that’s what we’re faced with here- Hitler is all that we know him to be: ruthless, shrewd and manipulative, but he’s also passionate, generous and extremely engaging.
Roger Allam is an extremely hypnotic actor, drawing the audience in with every motion and dark eyed glance, leaving them hanging on his every syllable and, as The Guardian’s review of the play states, he is “a Hitler who is Mephistopheles to Speer’s Faust.” Though there’s never any doubt that he’s in league with the devil, one can’t help but be transfixed by a performance which manages to simultaneously deconstruct and reaffirm the audience’s preconceived notions of the Third Reich and the magnetism of its Führer.
Roger Allam and Patricia Hodge in 2000 with their Olivier Awards for Best Supporting Actor and Actress (both awarded for their roles in the National Theatre production of ‘Money’)