For a piece with such weighty topics – bereavment, bad break-ups, Brexit and the long effects of the Holocaust – it’s a pleasure to watch something that flounces so gleefully on the stage and enchants you so readily to listen to its creator’s story. Anna Clover was dumped by her ex outside the Riga Ghetto, and around the same time, found her European Union citizenship was being dumped too. Germany offers citizenship to descendents of victims of the Holocaust, and Anna’s Jewish heritage entitles her to jump ship and Go Deutsch. The show we’re privy to is an hour-long cabaret-cum-storytelling show in which Anna sings songs about Haribo’s alleged links to the Nazi party, dances around in an EU flag and relays the story of her grandparents’ experience of Nazi Germany.
The whimsical storytelling style is more clever than first meets the eye – we’re treated to a healthy dose of metaphor as Anna flits in and out of telling the story of her last relationship and also her relationship to her newfound country. The songs and moments of lightness or joy are interspersed exactly where they need to be – directly after a difficult story about Anna’s grandparents fleeing their home country, or some heavy moment of tension broken by Anna’s clear passion and buoyancy in unpacking her complex identity. It’s clear by the end of the hour how she finds the comparative process useful – we are treated to comparisons between British and German society as well as between her upbringing and her grandparents’, both essentially Jewish childhoods affected by the war in vastly different ways.
Accepting German citizenship is both a moral, historical and future-thinking dilemma for Anna, as she compares it to going back into a relationship with someone who has hurt you in the past. The general treatment of the events of the Holocaust is engagingly whimsical, and could only really be pulled off by someone who has such a unique relationship to those events as Anna does both through her ancestors and new passport. While some of the jokes, like a star falling off the EU Flag and landing as a badge on her chest, are initially shocking, Anna is there to remind us that this is a space for exploration of her background and identity, and these visually striking moments are impactfully playful, leaving an imprint on the audience that would be otherwise less pertinent.
Playfulness is a good term to sum up the overall feeling of the hour, despite it’s weightiness thematically we are never bogged down by the events of the past, instead asked to look at them through the prism of Anna’s current predicament. Revealing moments about her ex-partner and the difficulties in their relationship add a personal touch to the story which allows us to lean on Anna as a friend, which is complimented by her light integration of audience participation (never too much, thankfully). She is such an inviting presence that has such clear motivation to tell this story, which just makes the whole thing tick like clockwork. The songs are great, twisted into the narrative without being in any way alienating, and the time really flies by as we get under the covers with modern-day Germany.
In the end, what best captures the essence of this show is Anna’s appropriation of the Henry VIII ‘Divorced, Beheaded, Survived’ rhyme from her school days – this is a show which weaves past and present into a distinct identity. Anna is so easy to spend time with, that it feels like both a catch-up with a friend and a vivid cabaret-story. Intrepid, eager and earnest – Going Deutsch is a fascinatingly fun hour of storytelling.
Recommended Drink: Going Deutsch is like a wheat beer – light and frothy, and goes down a treat.
Performances of Going Deutsch have now concluded at VAULT Festival. Keep up with the show creators on Social Media for future showings.