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The year is 1938. They are German Americans. And the camp is controlled by the German American Bund specifically to inculcate Nazi ideology in its young participants.
It is hard to believe now but these camps actually existed and as the relationship between Her (Patsy Ferran) and Him (Luke Fallon) develops it becomes clear how easily such evil can be smuggled into the minds of the young.
The stage is simply dressed with long hanging slats to represent a wood where couples are encouraged to go and ‘be social’ to help build up the Aryan stock by allowing their teenage hormones free reign.
The creepiness of this ‘programme’ is finally revealed when the girl is elected to deliver a speech to an assembly — or rally — of 40,000 German Americans.
In a truly frightening — if obvious — scene, Ferran rises to the occasion like a teenage Hitler.
The subtle interplay between Ferran and Fallon is remarkable and their dialogue ranges from the funny to the candidly intimate.
Katy Rudd’s direction is simple and direct.
Whether splitting logs with unerring accuracy or struggling to understand the doubts clouding his simple worldview, Fallon is superb.
Ferran’s more complex journey from nervous nerd through to implacable racist is equally convincing, even if her ultimate enlightenment seems more like a writer’s wish fulfilment than anything based on reality.
The outstanding performances undoubtedly enhance Bess Wohl’s informative and intriguing play whose excellent intentions are slightly undermined by unnecessary attempts to draw parallels with America’s recent past.
Audiences are intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions without being forcibly indoctrinated.
● The Old Vic until October 30, tickets: 0344 871 7628
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