Berliners Adelaide Fringe 20241/2

Adelaide Fringe. The Studio, Holden Street Theatres. 16 Mar 2024


Berliners is a gentle absurdist comedy about two guys (Nick and Tom) from vastly different backgrounds and contexts who strike up a romantic relationship that was never meant to blossom. But it did, because of unlikely events, and it eventually unravelled because it was based on untruths promulgated by Nick that would never have been exposed under normal circumstances.


The time is 1989 – the time the berlin Wall came down. Nick lives in an apartment close to the wall in West Germany, and Tom lives ‘through the wall on the other side’ in his apartment in East Germany. They are introduced by accident – a letter was delivered to the wrong apartment – and they start talking to and getting to know each other. They flirt, but then down comes the wall and they meet face to face and their life together begins. Before the wall came down, Nick and Tom were both journalists of sorts: Nick a second-rate video journalist, and Tom the anchor for a communist propaganda TV show. After the wall comes down, their working lives change dramatically, and Nick’s untruths force him down a path he would rather not. Eventually Nick and Tom split, with Tom moving to the USA and Nick remaining behind in Germany. Weird political events happen as fascinating alternate history unfolds, and they are reunited but don’t re-establish their relationship.


The narrative is humorous, with numerous puns and sideswipes at world politics, ideologies, and personalities. It is all firmly tongue-in-cheek, but there’s likely too much going on. The story line becomes dense and increasingly absurdist with layers and layers of detail that flit by with great speed. (The show is around 80 minutes long, which is probably 15 minutes longer than it needs to be. There is material that could be cut, such as an instance of audience participation with a jar of sauerkraut that added little.)


Sydney-sider actor/playwrights Nick Harriott and Tom Waddell – they play characters of the same name – have perfect faces for absurdist comedy: dead pan, sincere, never smirking, but always a glint in their eye that suggests they could easily burst out laughing. Waddell frequently spoke in a conversational style and at a conversational volume across stage, which rendered him almost inaudible at times. Some members of the audience thought the play was the best thing since sliced bread was invented and whooped and shrieked but Harriott and Waddell took it in in their stride.


The set was clever: dozens and dozens of empty milk crates stacked to form the Berlin Wall, walls in their apartments, and shelves and furniture. They were easily able to be moved to simulate the Wall coming down, and when it ….. (oops, almost a spoiler!). Lighting and sound was simple but effective, indicative of thoughtful design.


This is a fun show, and Harriott and Waddell have fertile comedic minds. Hopefully their alternate takes on history will remain in the annals of fiction, but they give pause for careful thought.


Kym Clayton


When: 12 to 16 Mar

Where: The Studio, Holden Street Theatres

Bookings: Closed