From a modern perspective it’s hard to imagine a time when Adolf Hitler was seen simply as Germany’s leader rather than a megalomaniac mass murderer. But in the mid-1930s, though memories of the First World War still stung, and fears of another one were stirring, a cordial sort of exchange system operated between Baden-Powell’s Boy Scouts and the Fuhrer’s Hitler Youth. The former, as we all know, is a voluntary character-building gang for young chaps to practice being men and do good deeds for God and their country. Hitler’s lot, on the other hand, were a quasi-military outfit whose membership was mandatory and whose sole purpose was to serve the Fuhrer’s will.
Glenn Chandler’s play concerns four teenage boys who meet in this curious time. English Scouts Will (Clement Charles) and Jacob (Charlie Mackay), along with Will’s mum Rose (Amanda Bailey) play host to cycling Germans Gerhard (Clemente Lohr) and Friedrich (Simon Stache). The visit is ostensibly all about fostering friendship between the young of the two nations, but could those German boys with their bikes and cameras actually be spies?
That’s the political motor of the plot. The personal engine is all about what teenage boys get up to when encouraged to sleep over in their “den” with lashings of sherry laid on by mum. Will is a straight arrow (doesn’t even drink, despite maternal encouragement), whereas pal Jacob is marginally more free-spirited and has a massive unspoken crush on Will. Tall and assertive Gerhard seems far too disciplined to indulge in such larks, but in no time is locking lusty lips with Jacob, while sensitive Friedrich is just… well, just really, really sensitive.
If that seems like a dismissive summary of affairs, I’m afraid that’s because there’s barely a dramatic spark to be found among the four of them. This was more than 30 years before homosexuality was partly decriminalised (for over-21s) and yet this forbidden love between teenage boys has no sense of danger, shame or excitement. It’s not the fault of the actors – sadly Chandler’s script just isn’t up to forging meaningful characters or relationships. He’s the director, too, so no chance of some extra insight springing to life in the rehearsal room. It’s a shame, because this source material has so much potential.
It’s a bad sign when a production’s programme is more interesting than the play itself, but unfortunately the facts behind this story are far more fascinating than the play they’ve inspired.
Written and directed by: Glenn Chandler
Produced by: Boys of the Empire Productions
Booking link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/good-scout
Playing until: This play has completed its current run.