Between History and Fiction: Starring Hitler as Jekyll & Hyde

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Against the backdrop of today’s tense political climate, Starring Hitler as Jekyll and Hyde is a play that could not be staged at a more appropriate time. First staged in 2014 to critical acclaim, the play reframes and challenges our perceptions of history, utilising a popular narrative to tell a new tale of Jekyll, a young painter by day, who turns into Hitler by night.

How did this play even materialise? Chong Tze Chien, playwright and company director of The Finger Players, shares that he has always been interested in the holocaust and the rise of Nazism, particularly the character profile of Hitler. He knew that as a playwright, one of his tasks was to humanise his characters, but a figure such as Hitler challenges that notion.

“Is it even ethical to humanise (or not) a mass murderer such as Hitler? How does one define him, get under his skin or understand a character like him? The prospect and possibilities stirred my curiosity.”

Unlike most of his other plays, Tze Chien came up with the play’s title even before writing the play itself, the result of a chance moment while watching an American awards ceremony. “One year when I was watching an American awards ceremony; the title of a nominated film or mini series was “Starring xxx” which serendipitously inspired the play’s title Starring Hitler as Jekyll and Hyde. I thought the title offered the most appropriate premise to tackle the subject matter with sensitivity… The play kind of ‘wrote itself’ after that.”

In the process of researching the trajectory of anti-Semitism in 1930s Germany, he found that the sentiments and events leading up to the swell of resentment was unnervingly similar those against immigrants and migrants in 2013-2014 Singapore. “It seemed history was repeating itself, and I knew the play had to be written.”

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the play.

“The play takes on a new chilling resonance especially after Brexit. Its themes of xenophobia and racism are playing out in many more countries over the years. The play’s marketing tag line “a modern retelling of history for today’s world” can’t be more apt.”

First staged as part of a LASALLE graduation show, the script has since been further refined, with most changes made to the characterisation of Hitler after a research trip to Poland and Germany in 2015. Tze Chien also shares that Starring is the first play in a trilogy centred around Hitler, the notion of him being a failed artist, and the themes of art.

“The three plays in the trilogy will collectively touch on the politics of art; duality of art and the transformation of art. Starring being the first play in the trilogy will focus on the politics of art, and I have made the necessary tweaks to address the overarching theme better and clearer since the first staging.” Coupled with a powerhouse cast featuring the likes Edith Podesta, Julius Foo, Jo Kukathas, Lian Sutton, Joshua Lim, and Daniel York (who plays both Jekyll and Hyde), the play is sure to thrill and excite audiences. The play runs from 13-15 Oct at Victoria Theatre so get your tickets now at SISTIC!

*Tickets are $30 (CAT3) for local and foreign students with valid student passes.
*Limited $10 tickets (CAT3) are also available over the counter to individual students with valid student passes.

All images courtesy of The Finger Players.