Review: Ganesh versus the Third Reich

Ganesh Versus the Third Reich. Picture: Jane Barlow
Ganesh Versus the Third Reich. Picture: Jane Barlow
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Are you laughing with them or at them? In what should be one of the hits of this year’s Festival, the Australian Back to Back Theatre company’s cast of actors with learning difficulties has produced a show which is at the same time tragic and discomfortingly hilarious.

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Two plots intertwine – one the efforts of an able-bodied director to put on a play with challenged actors and the other of the show they are trying to perform in which half-man-half elephant god Ganesh travels to meet Hitler to reclaim the Hindu symbol of good luck, the swastika.

The comedy comes from the cast arguing with themselves and the director’s attempts to control them, but always against the awful backdrop of Mengele’s horrific experiments on the disabled in Auschwitz.

So many other themes wrap around them – disabled actors as freak show performers, the director as dictator, sympathetic guidance as patronising overbearance, exploitation and abandonment and theatrical fiction as reality – and it all comes together in as thought-provoking a production as you’ll see.

Do you make allowances for the actors’ obvious drawbacks? Maybe unavoidably, but they are still brilliant and David Woods as the Bondi Beach fitness instructor/lifestyle guru turned director who turns into a monster is dreadfully believable.

Until August 12