Wed 22nd – Sat 25th Feb 2012


“Soundbite to be specified”




Theophile Sarder

Hans Josthinkel

Hans Miklas

Magnus Gottchalk

Sebastien Brückner/Klaus Mann

Heart Sleeve Productions


Hendrik is a struggling actor in the competitive world of German theatre. As the Nazis gain control, he has to decide whether to sell his soul for the chance of stardom.

'Mephisto' is the first work from director Milja Fenger since her screenplay, The Road Home, was shortlisted for the Best Short Film Oscar™ 2012.

Erotic and provocative, with a sizzling jazz accompaniment, this is the most exciting production of the year.


OTR Backstage, with May Anderson

"Mephisto" is a show that seems attended by a quiet, but gathering, buzz of theatrical excitement. Those people that have I spoken to about it – cast, crew and civilian alike – anticipate the first night with an almost unanimous accord that this is going to be a production that you’ll kick yourself for missing. Yet for all the buzz surrounding

it, there’s not a whole lot of consensus about what kind of show "Mephisto" is; is it a historical drama or cabaret act, political piece or dark comedy? Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Nick Howard-Brown momentarily lose their articulacy when I ask them to

describe "Mephisto" in three words. Together they decide upon ‘challenging’, ‘moving’ and ‘inspiring’. But they struggle to encompass a show that seems to dance across the

whole spectrum of emotions. Maisie also offers ‘erotic’, while Nick favours ‘joyful’ – and they both point out that it is also in spite of the ostensibly ‘heavy’ subject matter (it is set in Nazi Germany afterall) that this is a very funny play.

Playing Juliet, the cabaret-dancer/prostitute and mistress of the rising star at "Mephisto"’s centre Hendrik Höfgen, Maisie is more definite about why she likes her character. She admires her refusal‘to give up and give in’ and with the play confronting issues of how much one is willing to compromise in the face of overwhelming opposition to one’s beliefs I look forward to seeing how her performance will channel the ‘survivor’ that she insists Juliet is. Nick Howard-Brown plays Hendrik the charismatic centre of "Mephisto" and the rising star of the Hamburg Theatre Company whom he describes as ‘passionate and committed’ but

also rather enigmatically posits as the ‘villain of the piece’. They both seem genuinely enamoured with Milja Fenger’s notoriously rigorous and ‘alternative’ rehearsal process. The sense that they are being pushed very hard as actors is discernible in their intellectual engagement with the themes that "Mephisto" forces the audience to confront. When I enquire how they wish to leave the audience at the end of "Mephisto," Maisie replies ‘thinking’, and her response is wonderfully indicative that this production will be provocative as well as entertaining.

Following hot on the heels of another student production of a theatre troupe haunted by Nazism, "Mephisto" seems to offer a grittier, more political and perhaps more personal look at those people who challenge the status quo. If the musical "Cabaret"

offers us the awfulness of complacency, "Mephisto" dramatizes the degrees to which ordinary people struggle with the dangers of speaking out when no one else will. For those that find it hard to see the relevancy of a play about Nazi Germany, the very

personal stories that Nick and Maisie are helping to resurrect – themselves drawn from Klaus Mann’s semi-autobiographical novel about his own revolutionary theatre troupe – don’t seem so abstract when Maisie puts them in the context of that very ordinary willingness to sacrifice what we believe in, in pursuit of what we want.

Fame, wealth and glamour are a heady mix and it is a spotless individual that will not once in their lifetime fall under their thrall. Next Wednesday, for one night at least, I will lay aside my investment banking applications to spend an evening to see if this play will, or can, succeed in making me think.

Admission: Free

Oxford Playhouse

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