Ganesh Versus the Third Reich (4 stars)

This article is from 2014

Ganesh Versus the Third Reich

credit: Jeff Busby

Thoughtful, elegant show unfolds its ideas slowly at the Edinburgh International Festival

Ganesh and the Third Reich has all the ingredients for controversy. A Hindu god represented on stage, actors with disabilities, Australians appropriating Indian mythology and a European holocaust, a series of arguments between director and actors (scripted) and the biggest bad boy of the twentieth century. But Back to Back are cunning. This is a thoughtful, elegant show that unfolds its ideas slowly and challenges itself at every step.

The format – dividing into two narratives, one an epic tale of the elephant-headed deity coming to earth to rescue the swastika from Hitler's gang, the other scenes from the creative process – is familiar. It allows the company to reflect on the difficult questions, to challenge both the use of Nazi iconography on stage and the accusations that actors with disability could not make such serious work. Without giving easy answers, they tear open lazy assumptions, and examine the power relationships of the rehearsal room and pose more questions about authority.

The gentle pace is interrupted by dramatic interludes, climaxing in Ganesh challenging Hitler and an epilogue that offers reconciliation between the dictatorial director and a knowing cast member. Yet by setting out the concepts so clearly, Ganesh invites the audience to continue the discussion. The sly rejection of spectacle – a temptation for a work that deals with gods fighting Nazis – replaces melodrama with an accessible and fiercely intelligent drama.

Lyceum, 473 2000, 9–12 Aug, times and prices vary.