A Very Queer Nazi Faust – a dogs-eye view


Dolly Sen reflects on A Very Queer Nazi Faust in her role as Nelson the dog. The show played at the Norwich Arts Centre on 12th September, commissioned and supported by Unlimited (delivered by Shape and Artsadmin).

Dolly Sen poses as Nelson with floppy ears and with paws forward

Dolly Sen as Nelson the dog. Photo © Ann Nicholls

AWOOOO! Nelson the dog here. There are not enough dogs in art or enough dogs writing about art, so I threatened to hump the legs of the Disability Arts Online crew unless they let me write. So here goes.

A Very Queer Nazi Faust is a play about poet John Faust, who is suicidal, his benefits have been stopped without warning and the bailiffs are due to evict him. In addition to this his dog is in the vets dying (OH SHIT) and his car needs a new clutch, also he can’t finish his poetic masterpiece while the voices inside his head torment him.

In despair, John throws himself off Beeston Bump. Norfolk’s highest peak, clutching The Tragic True Life & Deserved Death of a Benefit Scrounger by Himself, but Lucifer won’t let him drown because she loves his book and wants a bigger part.

A Very Queer Nazi Faust is an experimental participatory performance piece created by artist Vince Laws. It was cast via social media and originally performed at Norwich LGBT+ Pride in 2017 to great acclaim.

The cast of a A Very Queer Nazi Faust line up in coloured costumes on a stage

A Very Queer Nazi Faust. Photo © Richard Shashamané

A Very Queer Nazi Faust highlights the plight of disabled people under the current government. Described as ‘economic murder’ in the British Medical Journal, and as ‘a human catastrophe’ by the United Nations. The performance contained adult themes and language as well as, suicidal thoughts, Lucifer, The Naked Abseilers and poetry, but no Nazis.

Which was a shame as I fancied chewing the leg off a Nazi. But never mind, we don’t have to look far to find people who act like Nazis. The play has Theresa May, Arlene Foster, and Ian Duncan Smith in it, in roles they deserve, such as Ian Duncan Smith’s head is on a platter. Vince put it out of reach from me, maybe because he thought I’d eat it. Credit me with some taste please! I’d prefer to cock my leg at it.

After a series of rehearsals, we played the Norwich Arts Centre to a sell-out crowd. I am on my doggie deathbed for much of the play as I watch the humans perform. And it does make me wonder why humans are so shit to other humans, or if humans treat a sector of society, such as disabled people, that so many other humans turn away and refuse to do anything. Superior beings, my arse!

A series of banners relating the stories of people who have died under austerity cuts

A Very Queer Nazi Faust. Photo © Richard Shashamané

If you want intelligent, compassionate human beings, you are barking up the wrong tree if you think they exist in the UK at the moment. Even in a dog eat dog world, we are that not cruel. What is happening to disabled people is brutal.

Vince Laws – although he taught me to roll over and show my genitals to all and sundry – refuses to roll over as a disabled artist. He uses humour and poetical prose to produce a highly surreal but astounding piece of theatre. But more importantly he is making work about the right of disabled people that is unapologetic and powerful.

He shows the benefit system to be as crooked as a dog’s hind leg, and way more evil than Lucifer who helps Faust in the play. Both Vince Laws who played John Faust and Jan McLachlan who played Lucifer were brilliant in their performances.

I almost ached to be human when they performed. I did play a human for a short while, well, a naked abseiler who invades the house of commons. That was a lot of fun, running around the audience, with two extra tits to my 8 doggie nipples hanging out, causing a possible health and safety issue, by poking someone’s eye out. But that was the play in a nutshell.

Although it was anarchic, chaotic, it held the most grace I have seen in a piece of work in a long time. Yes, I am in the play, so am biased, but dogs don’t lie, sleeping dogs lie, but caffeinated dogs don’t lie.

The most poignant part of the play for me was when Faust was at parliament addressing the floor. It goes like this:

Thank you Mr Speaker.
I’d like to ask the Prime Minister a question sent to me by Paul.
I’d like to, but Paul is dead. The DWP considered Paul
to have such severe mental health problems
there was no prospect of Paul being able to work.
Yet Paul was sanctioned, effectively,
for not being able to open his own post.
A pile of brown envelopes
lay next to Paul’s body and note.
Under this Government, the disabled are labelled
the low-hanging-fruit, easy pickings, cut, cut, cut!
This Government knew Paul couldn’t cope,
yet people like Paul are dying every day
despite report after report after report!
And what are the Right Honourable Members
opposite doing about this cruel and criminal sport?
Nothing! Why not? (CAST Baaa! Baaa!)
One can only conclude that the deaths will continue
because Death is what this Government wants

This made both sad and mad. The Tories need to be put on a short leash and chased by me, the bastards. You could hear a dog biscuit drop in the audience when those lines were said.

I play a mongrel, but by the end those lines, I was a little husky. I didn’t get many lines, or any bollocks for that matter. And by the end of the play, I have lost an eye and a leg. When I heard about me losing body part and not having bollocks, I thought: Why I couldn’t I be on Lassie?

But I am very proud to be in this play. When people look back to these times, and say: why did people (or dogs) do nothing? I won’t be one of those who did nothing. I howled my loudest, along with the other wonderful actors in A Very Queer Nazi Faust, to highlight what is happening. It is the dog’s bollocks.