Review: Who Do We Think We Are, Southwark Playhouse

“Maybe, just maybe, there is some hope”

Hope indeed, if new theatre company Visible are anything to go by. Gathering together a group of performers to create the only professional British theatre ensemble made up of older actors (60+ if we have to put a number on it) Who Do We Think We Are? sees them work with Sonja Linden to create a tapestry of tales of their considerable lives and experiences which stretch over so many of the key events of the twentieth century.

The concept is simple – the ensemble each work through a telling of their personal histories and given the international make-up of the group, the narrative stretches across the globe as well back to the outbreak of the First World War. As tales of grandparents and parents turn into stories of themselves – sometimes told alone, sometimes assisted by fellow members – the cumulative effect turns into something gently breathtaking in scope, in meaning, in power. Continue reading “Review: Who Do We Think We Are, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Heldenplatz, Arcola Theatre

“There are more Nazis in Vienna now than in ’38”

Continuing the mini German-language season at the Arcola, Heldenplatz is an uncompromising difficult play which has had a troubled existence, especially in playwright Thomas Bernhard’s native Austria. Named for the square in Vienna where Adolf Hitler declared the Anschluβ that annexed Austria to Nazi Germany and marked the beginning of the territorial aggrandisement that led to World War II, this is an excoriating look at the Austrian national character and just how prevalent right-wing sensibilities were in 1938 and persist even in the modern day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this outraged many Austrians who felt Bernhard was sullying the reputation of their nation, confronting as it does some uncomfortable truths.

The play is set in 1988 and the Schuster family and household are reeling from the death of its patriarch. As they prepare for the funeral, and then join for one final meal in his apartment afterwards, these Jewish intellectuals who fled the country once, they have found that little has changed for them: pervasive hatred and anti-Semitic prejudice still abound and they struggle to find their place in a society shorn of illusion. Continue reading “Review: Heldenplatz, Arcola Theatre”