This new play by Peter Arnott is as thought provoking as it is toe tapping. It blends the glitz and glamour of jazz with the harshness of life in Berlin during the war.
War has just broken out and life has changed, even music is under scrutiny. There are rules regarding what can be played. Jazz music is forced underground, as are many personal secrets. Billy Constant is an American journalist broadcasting censored shows on the radio. He falls for singer Lala Anderson after her band played on his show.
When he goes in search for her he learns about the rules and restrictions on music and performers and is welcomed into the friendship of Lala, her husband Lutz Templin and club owner Otto Stenzl. It isn't long before all their lives are changed by German officer Heinrich Hinkel and Charly Schwedler and their desire to use jazz for their own purpose.
The music of the era is gorgeously brought to life by the cast who not only portray the characters with depth, but play and sing the musical numbers with style. Amid the darkness of the time Chris Andrew Mellon as Otto Stenzl provides lighter moments but yet delivers one of the most thought provoking scenes of the night. In a production like this there are characters that are not there to be loved. Heinrich Hinkel (Paul Lincoln) and William Joyce (Callum Coates) are committed to the Nazi ideals, the conviction of their belief is strong, the performances utterly convincing.
Some of the language and subjects in this production may make the audience uncomfortable, but it has a purpose, in dealing with this subject the issues of the time need to be mentioned.
This production is a triumph of style and substance, it looks and sounds wonderful but it leaves you thinking of the difficulties of living under such a regime.
Propaganda Swing plays at Coventry's Belgrade Theatre until September 27.