Headmaster of British school apologizes for play on Hitler where students give the Nazi salute

Playwright and performer Pip Utton was angered at the apology, noting that the point of the show is to educate about intolerance and the ease with which people can be manipulated.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The headmaster of a private boarding school in Great Britain apologized Wednesday for staging a play on Hitler three months ago where students gave the Nazi salute at the end, infuriating the parents.

The Jewish Chronicle (The JC) revealed pictures of teens in the audience raising their arms in a “Sieg Heil” towards the stage, after which dean Gavin Horgan said such “role-playing” should not have been promoted and that it had been a mistake to have the students see the performance.

“We should not have staged this play,” he said. “We are sorry for the hurt that has been caused, and we have changed our approach to vetting performances so that this will never happen again.”

Adolf, a one-man show written and performed by Pip Utton, has the actor on stage in full Nazi regalia. Much of the content is taken straight out of Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

According to Utton’s website, the point is to educate the audience about their own intolerance while presenting “an acute anatomy of fascism, its ideological justification, its poisoned utopias.”

At the end of the show, Utton told the JC, he “manipulated” the teens into raising their arms in the classic Nazi salute by asking them to thank the backstage crew by “raising their right arms in the air, then bring their hand down to clap their knee.

“As their hands went up I told them, ‘It seemed to work in Berlin.’ I was in no way attempting to glorify that horrible, horrible salute,” he said.

He added that he saw the boys understood it was “kind of a joke, because they were laughing” while they were doing it.

Parents were nevertheless disgusted, also noting the timing, as it was staged hours before Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, although the apology was delayed.

Calling it “a disgraceful error in judgment,” one Jewish parent told The JC that it made him “feel sick.”

“What on earth were the teachers thinking? It would not be appropriate to give this kind of play the green light for school children at any time, least of all on the eve of Yom Kippur,” he said.

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Another cause of anger, The JC reported, was the reaction of teachers when some students complained about the play. They were simply told to delete pictures of it from their phones instead of receiving an explanation about why the play had been put on for them.

According to one parent, “the school’s sole concern seemed to be a looming scandal, so it tried to destroy the evidence. I am absolutely appalled.  The very least they could have done is offer an apology.”

Rendering the late apology may or may not have satisfied some parents, but it certainly angered Utton. He called it “spineless” in an interview the next day with radio show host Nick Ferrari, adding that the school “knew exactly what they were getting” because he had performed it there before.

Calling the complaining parents “unintelligent,” Utton noted that the whole point of the play was to “talk about the issues” his character raises. He also said he was unaware that the performance was on the eve of Yom Kippur and that had he known, he would have postponed the show.

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Utton has performed his play for 26 years all over England as well as in more than 30 countries in the world.