We thought it might be interesting to discuss other plays written about the Holocaust. Of course we have already discussed Good by C.P. Taylor, as it was turned into a film (see Interval Two). Whilst Good is a wonderful film, I think it must have been an even better piece of theatre.
There is nothing like watching a play – the immediacy, the intimacy, the engagement with the actors on stage. In a venue like The Orange Tree, which is a small but perfectly formed theatre in the round with 172 seats, you could be mere feet away from the actors.
But even the larger theatres in London’s West End are so designed as to make you feel you are “part of the action”. They were so well crafted in the Victorian Age, when they so loved their theatre, that there is almost no bad seat in the house. Many Broadway theatres, and other hotspots for fantastic theatre like Chicago, are modelled on these wonderful Victorian entertainment palaces. Of course back then, you could go to the theatre at 6 o’clock, watch an act here and there from some Shakespeare play, then the main event (and believe me, they are better than you think!), then a few after scenes, and leave the theatre at midnight, having had an amazing evening’s entertainment!
The actors, too, give a different kind of performance in a theatre. The mood and engagement of the audience can lift an actor’s performance to a different level than you will ever see on film.
Theatre remains, and always will remain a hugely important medium of entertainment, and education. So let’s look at a few examples of other Holocaust plays.
Of course, Anne Frank’s Diary has been adapted many times for stage and screen. It is of course such an engaging story that many, many people have read and appreciated it, and can connect with the poignancy of the wonderful writing.
You would be surprised by some of the plays that come up when you do a Wikipedia search, so let’s explore a few of these. There is an opera called The Child Dreams by Gil Shohat, which was commissioned by the Israeli Opera for its 25th anniversary season. This is an ethereal, dream-like opera that is resonant with themes about the Holocaust, although its author denies it is explicitly about the Holocaust.
A very early play, 1933, was written by Friedrich Wolf called Professor Mamlock. This portrays the hardships a Jewish doctor named Hans Mamlock experiences under the Hitler regime, and is one of the earliest works dealing with Nazi anti-Semitism.
Another play was written by the award-winning Spanish playwright Juan Mayorga in 2004, Way to Heaven. The play is about a notorious incident in 1944 in which a delegation from the International Red Cross visited the Theresienstadt concentration camp and were duped by the Nazi camp officials into reporting to the world that conditions were good and that they saw no evidence to support reports of mass murder.
These are the few plays that deal directly with the actualities of the Holocaust. There are several other plays dealing with individuals directly involved with the Holocaust, or the Nazi regime.
You may know the playwright David Edgar as the man who adapted Nicholas Nickleby for the Royal Shakespeare Company, which became a worldwide phenomenon. But Edgar was a playwright long before the phenomenal success of the much beloved Nickleby. If you are interested in reading about his earlier plays, some of which targeted the emerging National Front party in the UK (quite scary) please follow the link (David Edgar plays). In 2000 he wrote a play about Albert Speer which was produced by the Royal National Theatre, and starred Alex Jennings.
My research ends here. There are a few more links on the Wikipedia page about plays which don’t really address the subject as they should, worthy as they may be. To my mind, there is a paucity of plays about the Holocaust. And what exists, should be played over and over, and then over again. Theatre is such an amazing medium that any play written about the horrors of this time must be replayed time and time again. Yes, there are films, thankfully. But we must use every medium. And we must speak of it as much as we can.
If you have any recommendations, we would love to hear them. Anything that addresses the Holocaust is a good thing. We hope you think our play is a good thing, too.