1936 by Tom McNab is a thrilling take on the events that led up to the 1936 Olympics. The Berlin Olympics are remembered both for the American Jesse Owens winning four gold medals, and for being a pivotal moment in Hitler’s rise to power.
This remarkable play balances the personal stories of the athletes with the politics and in-fighting leading up to the games, laying bare the greed and unscrupulous ambition of the key players at the time. In London’s own Olympic year, 1936 is a fascinating examination of the political impact of hosting the games at a time when Hitler’s position in Germany was precarious. Hosting the games provided invaluable propaganda for the Nazi movement but presented a moral dilemma for the athletes and other nations involved, aware of Hitler’s treatment of Jewish athletes. The extraordinary power politics prior to the Second World War are played out by a nine actor cast, portraying the people whose decisions could have changed history.
The play was followed by a screening of excerpts from Leni Riefenstahl’s iconic film Olympia, as well as a discussion led by Olympic coach and best-selling author Tom McNab with eminent sports personalities on the panel.