In one of the more light-hearted representations of the First World War at the Fringe this year, Dear Mister Kaiser charts the result of one idealistic English soldier’s request to the German Kaiser: to be given temporary leave from his POW camp to visit his hometown. The plot never turns in quite the way you’d expect.
The show seems content with a warm quirkiness even when not realising the full potential of a scene
The show’s tongue is always in cheek, playfully anti-historical yet continually assuring the audience it is a true tale. The piece’s charm swings between modern-day references to potholes in Wolverhampton and the sheer delight of its set, which shifts from place to place and vehicle to vehicle with an ease that conceals the thoughtful design behind this production. The choo-choo charm of the train-carriage prologue is more than enough to put anyone in a good mood. Several moments of choreography or scene-changes could easily have been more developed and visually impressive, but the show seems content with a warm quirkiness even when not realising the full potential of a scene and this fault never hinders the show too badly.
Dear Mister Kaiser doesn’t quite manage to escape depicting stereotypes of the nations involved, but they are always used for humour rather than malice. The relationships between the characters of both nationalities are captivating and warmly portrayed, particularly the bickering Kaiser and son, though the acting can often be less gripping. The plot and action is too slight to ever truly become moving, which is a shame given the context of the play and the war’s centenary. Movement and combat, too, can be slightly wooden. Generally, the show is much more silly than funny, more cheerful than achieving. But as a midday show, whose aim is delight rather than anything more substantial, there is much to be enjoyed here.