I feel like everyone has had the hypothetical debate, if you could go back in time what would you change? Some people would give advice to their younger selves, or they’d stop the JFK assassination. And someone always says, “I’d go back and kill baby Hitler”. Making History, originally a novel by Stephen Fry and adapted to the stage by Colin Mcpherson, tries to tackle this moral debate. The set is a wall of famous historical faces, Mary Queen of Scots, Marie Curie, Nelson Mandela, and centre stage, is Adolf Hitler. I enjoyed how the set was used, having the portraits serve as hidey-holes for props, or concealing larger set pieces within them. And simply having this huge wall of famous faces instantly has you thinking about all the major players in history, so before the show even starts your brain is in that historical headspace.
The main character of the piece, Micheal Young (portrayed by Ed DeRuiter), is a bright-eyed passionate historian who loves living in the moment. After he bumps into Dr. Leo Zuckermann (portrayed by Danny Farrimond), and older Jewish man who is a professor of physics, who happens to notice the thesis Micheal wrote on the young life of Hitler. After taking a fascination is Micheal’s thesis, Leo decides to show Micheal the machine he built. A machine that can peer back into time through some quantum physics madness and using this machine, they try to remove Hitler from history. A nicely done set-up in the first act. DeRuiter does an excellent job with an energetic performance bouncing off his characters girlfriend Jane Greenwood (portrayed by Kerry Trewern), who also brings a nice cheekiness to the show’s first act. Farrimond also brings a great presence to the stage, bringing true weight to a lot of the subject matter. The comedy was done very well throughout, despite having not read the original novel I could still feel Stephen Fry’s brand of humour coming through in this adaptation.
The second act however, felt weaker than the first. Act one sets up these big moral questions regarding history and how we see it, one example the show uses is the atom bomb. It’s all well and good knowing the science behind the bomb, but isn’t the reason America made it, or the reason America used it, just as important? Is it not just as important to fully understand the feelings and the innerworkings of the people behind it? It dishes out these big questions and these moral choices in the first act, but then the second act doesn’t really give any straight answers, if any answers at all. The reveal of the second act and the world Micheal now finds himself in is an attractive concept, I want to know more about this world and how people live and are affected by it, to further understand why Micheal and Leo had made such a wrong move by “killing” Hitler. Instead, we get a sort of basic sci-fi plot with a love story attached that is still enjoyable, but it feels like the weight the show was carrying in its moral question was lost nearly completely. Despite its shortcomings however, it was a well performed, well directed, very enjoyable evening. The company that created the piece, Edinburgh Theatre Arts, clearly had a real passion for the script and they gave it their all to great effect and good laughs throughout.
Making History by Stephen Fry is showing at St Ninian’s Hall from August 14th to the 19th. Get your tickets at: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/making-history-by-stephen-fry
Reviewer: Euan Huth
Reviewed: 12th August 2023
North West End UK Rating: