Saturday, July 31, 2010


Maybe like me you've caught yourself mid-sentence, or sat back and reviewed some series of events that has turned out badly, and been alarmed to realise that you are morphing into some worst aspect of your mother or your father. I'm more than happy - privileged - to have inherited their best traits, but the older I get, the more I need to remind myself that I can choose to leave their other traits behind. Or can I?

The young characters Anna, Mark and Tracey in Jackie French's novel Hitler's Daughter ask themselves such questions. It's a story that starts and ends with questions: how do we know what constitutes history? What if Hitler had a daughter called Heidi (ironically named after Johanna Spyri's sugary heroine), who was differently abled and therefore had to be hidden? How do we know who is walking among us - what the future is for that person next to us at the bus stop? What shadows from the past gather round that person who eats breakfast with us every morning?

Mark keeps coming back to these questions and their moral implications: how do we recognise the right course of action? Is there one - or many?

Such questions have clearly disturbed and stayed with the Sydney company Monkey Baa, because they have revisited Hitler's Daughter, which they first adapted for the theatre in 2006. French and Monkey Baa is a natural collaboration: the company believes in so much of what this writer stands for. And the show has been brilliantly directed by one of the company's founders, Sandra (Sandie) Eldridge. It's an outstanding production, and I urge you to take any young people you know - your own children, friends, your class or group - to see it. Next stop for Monkey Baa and Hitler's Daughter is the United States, so your support will help them get there, too.

From the thunder in the dark that opens the action to the final questions Anna directs at the audience, Hitler's Daughter is gripping, funny, touching, deeply unsettling. The full house at Sydney's Seymour Centre last night was absolutely spellbound - and that's a major achievement in such a venue.

This isn't just a great night out: the themes Jackie French and Monkey Baa are exploring have never been more important.

Perhaps we've heard Edmund Burke's warning too often: that evil triumphs when good people do nothing. But for a generation - or a community - that adopts being cool as its default position, Hitler's Daughter is a powerful reminder that disengagement can have dreadful consequences.

Take any action you can to get along to the theatre and see it!