Riding with the metaphorical Olympic wave, Tom McNab's 1936 documents the lead up to the infamous games in Berlin, which Hitler used to showcase German superiority.
As a history piece it is is hard to fault. It is performed in a documentary style, with an American journalist filling in the audience on key events. This pacey narrative progresses swiftly from pre-Nazi Germany winning the Games in 1932 through to Goebbels convincing Hitler that it would be a good propaganda tool. However, this style also means that the dialogue is at times stilted. It does not feel like natural conversation as McNab attempts to include every nugget of historical information. It feels, at times, more a lecture than a play.
The supporting cast were very good at creating clearly defined characters as they switch between roles. However, Tim Frances' Hitler could appear caricatured, a funny man easily persuaded by a passionate Goebbels. This humanising of such figures is slightly off-key, but the play also treats the big issues such as anti-Semitism with appropriate gravitas.
So whilst the play is a satisfactory potted history of the 1936 Olympics it fails expound convincingly, with the script failing to properly engage the audience. However, it does illustrate why we must always strive for the Olympic values in sport (inclusion, honesty and fairness being paramount), and is a timely play -- however, as an entertainment it lacks a little.
- by Katherine Graham