German-born actor Simon Stache draws on his own family’s history for the premiere of Glenn Chandler’s The Good Scout, inspired by an incredible, and never before dramatised, exchange between the Hitler Youth and the British Boy Scouts. We caught up with him as the show prepares for London previews and Edinburgh Fringe. Time to get booking!
The Good Scout, written and directed by Glenn Chandler for Boys of the Empire Productions, will run in Edinburgh at theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall from 2 to 24 August 2019, with London previews at Above the Stag Theatre on 26 and 27 July.
In the 1930s, Lord Baden-Powell and Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s London ambassador, instigated exchange visits between British boy scouts and Hitler Youth, in the expectation that they would influence one another.
In Bassington, England, the local troop play host to a cycling party of Hitlerjugend – but are the German boys cyclists or ‘spyclists’? For Will and Jacob, two Rover Scouts on the cusp of manhood, it is a visit that will change their lives forever. As war looms, a heart-wrenching, darkly humorous drama about espionage, a scout’s honour and forbidden love unfolds.
The Good Scout is the first-ever play based on this astonishing historical record. It stars Charlie Mackay, Amanda Bailey, Lewis Allcock, Clement Charles, Clemente Lohr and Simon Stache.
Talking to… Simon Stache
Simon Stache was born in Schöneberg, Berlin and brought up in the German countryside. He moved to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), graduating in 2016. He was nominated for his performance as Gregor Samsa in Steven Berkoff’s Metamorphosis at London’s Swan Awards in 2017 and recently appeared in BBC’s TV comedy sitcom Ghosts.
Tell us about your character in The Good Scout?
I’m playing Friedrich Dorf, a young member of the Hitler Youth in 1938. Friedrich travels to England for the first time in his life with his friend and junior squad leader Gerhard. There’s a clever and very sensitive side to Friedrich that immediately struck me when I first read the play. A sensitive soul like him had a hard time in the Third Reich. He’s a bit like a delicate flower. I was fully focused on him in the audition room. Friedrich studies Radio Technology and generally has a curiosity for anything new. He has two sisters and his family taught him justice.
Friedrich has a good sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s a big gift from his father and mother in the years of the Nazi Regime. He has moments of being torn between his actual wants and the clashing, indoctrinated ideology of Hitler. It’s exciting as an actor to explore how his mind acts different from his body. What is he allowed to mention in a conversation? The name Friedrich interestingly means peaceful ruler (Fried = peace, ric = ruler). I think that’s a good way of describing him.
What’s your family connection to the subject matter?
My grandparents Rita and Werner were both part of the Hitlerjugend, the Hitler Youth, when they were teenagers. It was mandatory for boys to join and girls became part of the Bund der Deutschen Mädel, the League of German Girls. As you can imagine, members of the Hitler Youth were much more militarily drilled than English Boy Scouts. They marched everywhere in their units. To breakfast, to study, to their rooms. It was natural for my granddad to continue becoming a Funker, a radio operator, in the war. He lost his right leg at the age of 20 from a grenade.He met my nan at a local dancing hall. She immediately noticed he had a slightly different rhythm in his legs and liked him.
I remember my nan telling me a story from her time in the League of German Girls when all the girls had to gather around their local train station near the Baltic sea to greet Hitler, who came through her town on a train. She hated every second of it. Her friends hated it too. But they all smiled on the outside and waved as they were told. She kept saying ‘We were never allowed to have fun’.
How do your family experiences affect your approach to the play?
It’s interesting for me to imagine scenarios my grandparents might have been in. I don’t really know what it was like for them, because everyone drew a big veil over that time. My granddad definitely knew the songs I’m singing in the play.
What are you most looking forward to about taking the show to Edinburgh?
I came to visit the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018 to see a friend’s show. I uttered the wish to perform at the festival next year. Well, that dream has come true for me!
Anything else you’d like to add?
This by Bertolt Brecht:
The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered, there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread. When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “Stop!”
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible.
When sufferings become unendurable, the cries are no longer heard.
The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.
Following London previews at Above the Stag Theatre on 26 and 27 July, The Good Scout runs from 2 to 24 August 2019, at theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall, Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DW, with performances (80 minutes) at 8.20pm. Tickets are priced £10-12. Click here to purchase!