“Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”
– Yehuda Bauer
It’s a well known fact that history is written by the victors. We rarely hear “the other side” of the story. Why ask the murderer when you have a survived victim?
East of Berlin is a play written by the Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch. It’s one of those plays that has a very unusual point of view, which makes the difference and presents the plot under a yet unshaded light.
Rudi (played by Colin Campbell) was born in 1945. And as he puts it himself, just as he was being born his “father was losing the war.” Rudi lives in Paraguay now; he speaks Spanish and almost does not bear any memories of his fatherland. And even though his own father has a picture of Hitler on his study desk, years after the defeat, Rudi does not ask many questions about the war. At least not until the day his school friend, another German expat and a war criminal son, Hermann (played by Liam Heslin) tells him what he knows about Rudi’s father’s duties during the war.
Disgusted and overwhelmed with all the new information, Rudi decides to leave Paraguay for Germany. Good for him, Odessa takes care of all the money problems. Odessa takes care of everything, for that matter. After a university graduation and years of living in Berlin, it looks like Rudi, or Otto as he’s now know, has almost settled for the quite, almost boring and measured, European life. He has achieved that stage in life when even he himself started believing in the lies that he was telling his new friends about his childhood, thus, for convenience reasons, he “killed” his parents in a car crash. But everything changes when a Jewish American girl Sarah (played Erin Flanigan) comes into the picture.
East of Berlin, directed by Lee Wilson, is a tense ninety minute almost a monologue (with a number of flashbacks) performance that tells a very usual story with a very unusual insight. Moscovitch achieved to create interesting characters that are very easy to feel for and empathize with. All three actors on stage, in their turn, give a performance to remember.
The story has a very nice organic build-up to its climax, with an unexpected twist at the end, which always is a bonus.
East of Berlin is yet another great example of a serious matter being presented with a spoon of sugar. You can’t talk holocaust, death and betrayal for almost two hours without sparing the audience a smile every once in a while.
The set was quite basic (almost bare), but the practical and uncommon storage of the props made it the more interesting. The idea of hiding things in the base of the stage and only picking them up when they are needed made a wonderful allegory with the plot. Sometimes, there is more than just a skeleton in the closet.
I also quite liked the lighting design (by Zia Holly). Just like in Anna Bella Eema, Holly has an extraordinary feeling for the space in which she works and definitely knows how it can be filled with the light for its benefits and the benefits of the actors performing.
East of Berlin runs in the Project Arts Center until January 16th, for more info or to book tickets, please, visit: http://projectartscentre.ie/event/east-berlin/