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Review: Camp Siegfried, at Old Vic

Compelling courtship between teens seduced by Nazi ideology in the fervid atmosphere of 1938

30 September, 2021 — By Lucy Popescu

Patsy Ferran and Luke Thallon in Camp Siegfried. Photo: Manuel Harlan

INSPIRED by a 1930s Nazi summer camp on Long Island, run for American youth of German descent, Camp Siegfried follows two teenagers as they embark on a romantic relationship and are seduced by Nazi ideology.

Set in the fervid atmosphere of 1938, in a town with streets named after Hitler and Goebbels, Him (Luke Thallon) hopes to impress Her (Patsy Ferran) with his woodcutting prowess, tales of derring-do and implied sexual conquests.

She is initially gauche and in awe – he’s 17 which feels a lot older than her 16 years.

As well as their Nazi indoctrination, the teenagers in the camp are actively encouraged to copulate in the woods in order to further the “pure race”.

The pair’s awkward courtship is compelling and the best part of Bess Wohl’s 90-minute play. He chops wood, they build brick walls together and enjoy some hikes and moonlit assignations. Despite their obvious attraction, they are suspicious of each other’s motives and wonder if one might be prepared to denounce the other.

Both characters are marked by past emotional scars and find respite together. However, the power dynamics shift when the girl is asked to be the camp’s youth leader. She seizes the opportunity and delivers a rousing speech, extolling Hitler’s virtues, while suggesting fascism can make America great again – the parallels with Trump’s nationalistic pledge are clear.

As their relationship begins to flounder, she takes a trip to New York City, and finds herself turned again by the kindness of a Jewish couple who look after her. Although the characters’ motiva­tions do not always convince, the performances are top notch.

There’s an eerie beauty to Katy Rudd’s production, the simple but effective set design by Rosanna Vize, the film footage from the real camp, and Rachel-Leah Hosker’s mesmerising choreography.

Until October 30
oldvictheatre.com

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