EFR - Reviews of Ghetto

Ghetto

Tue 21st – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

Jenni Reid

at 02:05 on 24th Aug 2012

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Giving voice to the experience of Jews in a ghetto in Vilna, Lithuania, 'Ghetto' chronicles the establishment of an unlikely theatre, the flourishing of a clothes-making factory, and inevitably, the persecution of thousands of innocent people. This confident cast of young people all put in an admirable effort and create some strong dramatic moments; however they lack the natural stage presence and emotional range to explore the full implications of this dark play.

All the lead male parts (which are essentially all the lead parts) are played by women in this show. Most carry off these strong, masculine roles convincingly; Georgie Abbs is suitably intimidating as Kittel, the formidable SS Officer running the Ghetto, and Charlotte Wood conveys the complexities of Jacob Gens, the Jewish head of the Ghetto who both saves and sends to death hundreds of fellow Jews. Rosie Gaston also shows an extraordinary talent for physical theatre as a ventriloquist’s dummy, and the performance put on by the inhabitants of the ghetto provides the show’s strongest and most haunting scene. An interesting dynamic is established between Srulik, with his ideals, and Gens, with his action – however it remains more one-dimensional and stilted than it should. And whilst hardly a big fault of the play, I must admit I witnessed one of the worst stage slaps I have ever seen which somewhat ruined the efficacy of what should have been a frightening and tense moment.

This play has some moments which are moving, but this has more to do with the weighty subject matter than the performance itself. This production of 'Ghetto' is excellent within the category of ‘school play’, but fails to move beyond this into anything more professional.

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Sukhmani Khatkar

at 12:00 on 24th Aug 2012

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The Theatre School’s production of 'Ghetto' is a splendid effort given circumstances. This group of young actors has managed to deliver an impressive performance given the fact that it was apparently the result of just a week’s intensive rehearsal period. At points the emotional intensity of the interaction is striking. However, it is unfortunate that an underlying sense of caution and reserve that prevents it from truly sparkling.

'Ghetto' is an unusual depiction of life in the Vilna Ghetto, operated by Nazi Germany. We witness its inhabitants' desperate desire to cling to some semblance of their culture and humanity by establishing their own theatre group. Their engagement with music and dramatics is viewed as the last channel through which they are able to express any form of emotion. Indeed, the group’s efforts to capture the poignancy of this subject matter are commendable. A chilling protest against Nazi rule is issued by the theatre troupe in a “performance within a performance”, a scene that certainly serves to showcase the group’s real talent, and particularly that of “puppet”, Rosie Gaston. The plot is complicated by the inclusion of Charlotte Wood’s character, Jens. The latter adds an intriguing new dimension to 'Ghetto'. As Jewish police officer, Jens, is tasked with cooperating with Nazi authorities, much to the disgust of his religious community. Indeed, the manner in which Wood communicates Jens’ torment at being branded disloyal should be praised. It is with maturity and ease that she depicts the pressures of being forced to lead a 'double life' that inevitably draws vicious criticism from his fellow Jews.

In general the most successful parts of 'Ghetto' were those in which its actors manage to relay fierceness effectively. However, the only issue I have with this is the fact that it was slightly inconsistent in this intensity. No doubt there were points where anguish was apparent when arguments flared or voices were raised. However, it was perhaps only Wood and Georgie Abb’s Kittel, an SS commander, that manage to maintain an urgency throughout. Their subtlety in cultivating a calm forcefulness should most certainly be praised. The remainder of the cast should perhaps take note as, sadly, there were points where it felt as though performances were distinctly lacklustre.

The Theatre School should be justly proud of this production, especially given the impressively short time span in which it was devised. The need for a little more earnestness is perhaps my most significant criticism. Despite this it is certainly true that this young group did well to grapple with a subject that requires a great deal of sensitivity and maturity.

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