In recent years there's been a couple of shows claiming the dubious honour of being Hitler's favourite play; this one's got the more respectable claim of having displeased him so much he banned it. Ödön von Horváth was one of very few writers to stay in Germany under the Nazis, and Faith, Hope and Charity was written, and takes place in, the months of their rise to power. On Signe Beckmann's simple but stylish set, we meet the ever-optimistic Elisabeth when she's so down on her luck she's trying to sell her corpse in advance for dissection. This failing, we follow her attempts to keep herself going in what the better-off call a welfare state, but whose bureaucracy scuppers any chance of anyone who actually needs its help receiving any. In a culture where the most vulnerable are scapegoated it's clear where Leonie Kubigsteltig's production is drawing modern-day parallels. It's an atmospheric production and while the performances are mixed there's a few very nice touches in there. But the play is billed as a black comedy and while I could see its potential as such in the story and writing, I didn't feel this production took advantage of that element of the play.
Tonight's show was followed by a Q&A with Kubigsteltig and translator Christopher Hampton; mainly the latter, who seems to have a pretty encyclopaedic knowledge of Horváth's life and works, and who gave us an extended description of the playwright's premature, unusual death (summary: Death by falling tree after seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at the cinema.)
Faith, Hope and Charity by Ödön von Horváth in a version by Christopher Hampton is booking until the 16th of July at Southwark Playhouse.