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Project Arts Center: East of Berlin

“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/

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Filed under East of Berlin, Hannah Moscovitch, Project Arts Center

Theatre Upstairs: The Bells of.

Theatre Upstairs presents its new production: The Bells of, a twisted play (or an intriguing play with a twist, you’ll have to decide for yourself) by Bez Kinte, a collective group of international artists

The Bells of, written by Barry McEvoy and directed by Louisa Sanfey, is a story full of symbolism and metaphors.

The Bells of is a story where the blind see clearer than the seeing ones. In a small-town America, in a toy factory, a middle-aged businessman (played by Jed Murray) is trying to negotiate the perfect doll eyes with his partners from a third-world country. His young assistant Lee-Ann (played by Sarah Morris), the one who hasn’t fully sold her soul yet to the world of trading, goods and money, is a very caring and loving person with a passion for bells. Lee-Ann spends all of her free time in a hospital near the factory, where she plays with some of the patients and also brings them for daily walks. Ida (played by Aislinn O’Byrne) is one of those patients. Ida is blind and deeply religious. She does not accept any gifts, her faith does not permit it. Ida loves going for a walk with Lee-Ann, who she asks to describe people and places they are passing by. According to Ida, Lee-Ann “is shitty at describing”. But they have their moments of fun. Arthur (played by Liam Burke) is another patient of the hospital; he is also an ex-worker in the toy factory. One day, during a rodeo match, he asks Lee-Ann to google how to build a bomb.

I’ll leave it to you to find out what and why he wants to blow up! The story might be darker than you expect.

The Bells of is a very interesting play, which leaves you with a lot to think about. It’s definitely one of those plays that you leave thinking “what the hell just happened?” and “will there be a second part?”. Especially the latter one, because I would love to see a continuation.

As much as all four actors are, the set (designed by Naomi Faughnan) is a very essential part of this production. The appearing and disappearing easily recognisable images on the multiple vintage screens add to the mysterious and eerie atmosphere on the stage. While the naked headless barbies made me realise how dark of a place this factory is and maybe Ida is right in her unacceptance of toy gifts.

All four actors created very captivating and watchable characters, but Ida deserves a special mention. I suppose it’s a part of both McEvoy’s and O’Byrne’s merit. Ida is just a very interesting, unusual character that you would like to know more about. I heard or read somewhere that originally that part was written for a boy. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine it to be portrayed by anybody but O’Byrne (fantastic casting decision!). She just has this strange edgy slightly mysterious air around her. I saw her earlier this year in a different play in Theatre Upstairs, and yet again she gave a very memorable performance. And so did Morris in King Lear. Her fool was unforgettable.

The Bells of grabs your attention from the very first moment and doesn’t allow it to wander off even for a second. It’s a beautifully constructed and directed piece of theatre that challenges the audience with its story and characters.

The Bells of runs in Theatre Upstairs until November 21st. Hallowe’en might be over, but what can be creepier than a small blind girl and a toy factory? Find out for yourselves. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/the-bells-of 

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Filed under Bez Kinte, The Bells of, Theatre Upstairs