The Good Scout treads an extraordinarily fine line as a play. Between camp and naturalism. Between history and fiction. Its depiction of a rendez-vous between two Hitler Youth members and two Ranger Scouts, though, manages to tread these lines with grace, managing to provide an engaging, heartbreaking piece of theatre.
The full package – it’s fun, sweet, and heartbreaking, all within a truly unique setting.
The story is as follows: Following a meeting between Von Ribbentrop and Baden-Powell, Hitler Youth members Friedrich and Gerhard – on their tours of friendship around Britain – have come to stay in Cambridgeshire with two Boy Scouts, Will and Jacob. Will, the proverbial “Good Scout,” is torn between his morals and his country when asked to spy on the two, while Jacob’s blossoming romance with Gerhard, a Nazi Faithful, leaves him torn about his own nature as a young gay man. The play handles 1940s attitudes to homosexuality quite gracefully-demonstrating the forbidden nature of gay relationships through external elements and character growth, without either being pornographic with its depiction of struggle, and while keeping a sense of delicacy and beauty about the romance itself.
The most impressive part of The Good Scout, though, has to be its bizarre campy skits. In order to keep its historical exposition interesting, writer Glenn Chandler has included bawdy comedy scenes of moments like the Munich Peace Conference, the meeting of Baden-Powell and Von Ribbentrop, and the announcement of Project Valkyrie. These are hysterical and perfectly manage to keep you engaged within the scope of the narrative. Unfortunately, some of the other comedy falls a touch flat, namely much of the sitcom-esque humor in the first half-hour. It helps contribute to that camp, but still broke my enjoyment early on. Some of the stagecraft is also a little awkward, namely a piece where Will has to ride a bicycle to interrupt a kiss between Jacob and Gerhard. It just feels awkward in the thrust staging.
Yet in this play, the emotions of youth are both ever-present and gorgeous. All four of the boys manage to brilliantly convey the confusion and complexity of adolescent romance and morality within their individual roles. Special credit must go to the bizarre power exerted by Clemente Lohr as Gerhard, who not only makes a gay Nazi tremendously believable, but also manages to slip effortlessly between villain and love interest, depending on what the script requires. Amanda Bailey as Will’s mum Rose is also a riot to watch onstage. Its finale reminds you of the various tragedies, both political and personal, that the era wrought on its youth. The Good Scout is the full package – it’s fun, sweet, and heartbreaking, all within a truly unique setting.