Sunday, February 17, 2013

Interval Nine - More Theater

In Interval Seven we touched on the continuing importance of live theatre, and discussed the play Tosca’s Kiss performed at The Orange Tree Theatre in May of 2006.

Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, London

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.

the auditorium of the Orange Tree Theatre

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.

Steppenwolf Theater, Chicago

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.


Next week we will have the next instalment of A Ball for Genia to be published on Monday 25th February.  Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written, Alison! May I refer to this on my Facebook link? There is a two man show written some time ago between a Japanese-American GI who was on the rescue team in Germany immediately after the cease fire for WWII. The man playing opposite him was a Jew on the floor, starving, almost dead, in one of the camps of the holocaust. Several scenes after that gave texture to their relationship when, rediscovering each other, the American brought out pictures of his family and showed them to his friend. Then, thoughtlessly, he asked to see his friends pictures of his family. His response: "I don't have a family!" brought me to tears. One sentence, succinctly placed, brought back the isolation, the horror, and the loneliness of the Holocaust by focusing on one man, one life, and his one journey. With affection! If you can find that play, it would be a fine example of a way to remember those who perished in the Holocaust! Gordon in Florida.