Prevalent playwright Henry Naylor is back at this year’s Adelaide Fringe Festival with Games.
From the man that brought us the well-received Borders in 2018 comes a poignant two-woman piece of theatre that delves into the era of Nazi Germany. Games explores the journeys of two Jewish-German athletes in the lead up to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, facing dilemmas of self-identity and discrimination along the way.
This true story is told through the eyes of champion fencer/national hero Helene Meyer (sharply portrayed by Sophie Shad) and emerging high-jumper Gretel Bergmann (a fierce Tessie Orange-Turner).
As Nazi supremacy rises, we are given a contrasting insight into what it meant for both women’s heritage. Meyer saw no place for politics in sport, declaring she isn’t Jewish but merely a fencer.
Bergmann takes a much more hardline approach to the issue, proud of her lineage and dumbfounded at Meyers apathy. This was only further compounded when Jewish athletes were banned from state training facilities and forced into substandard conditions. It’s hard enough to find a competitive edge at that level, meaning the limitations in place were significant.
However, through Bergmann’s story, we know that attitude and motivation are more important, with Games illuminating that barriers can be somewhat overcome but that political agendas are ever-powerful.
Games takes us on a high-energy and enthralling tale of two women who merely want to be the best, but in a domain of marginalisation, they need to work that much harder. The play is an excellent historical insight, allowing us to make parallels to current day leadership and systemic racism.
Shad and Orange-Turner, giving a credible understanding of the attitudes at play throughout such a tumultuous time, brilliantly portray each character’s passion and insecurities. Hindsight is 20/20, but the social complexities of the era were not as easily identified back then. Games highlights this well, ensuring this hour-long piece is another standout for Naylor and Holden Street Theatres.
Well worth the watch.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Games is playing at Holden Street Theatres until the 1st March. Tickets available online or at The Fringe Box Office.