EAST OF BERLIN
by Hannah Moscovitch.
Southwark Playhouse (The Little) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 12 July 2014.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 July.
Intriguing drama of the past and another country.
This piece by Toronto-based playwright Hannah Moscovitch comes from some way west of Berlin. And it opens halfway round the world from Germany, in Paraguay, where teenage Rudi, born 1945, believes his father relocated simply because Germany lost the War.
A remark by fellow student Hermann when Rudi’s 17 reveals the truth of his father’s past and why he moved to South America alongside war criminals like Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele. The first of these had been tried a couple of years before the action opens; the second, with his war service East of Berlin, is a model for Rudi’s father.
With politics, there’s sex. Rudi derides his father’s Teutonic mechanical sex-habits – 16 thrusts punctually at 9pm every Monday. When he lashes out at Hermann for telling him the truth, his friend treats it as part of a sexual seduction. And when desire for detail takes Rudi, under an assumed name, to Berlin he meets Sarah, researching her own family’s very different route to Auschwitz.
She rejoices at the liberation of loving a non-Jewish German among the increasingly disarray of archive shelves which form Holly Pigott’s set – the past always surrounds these people. Then Hermann arrives, angrily discovering his former lover about to marry, and too much truth comes out for Sarah.
This might all seem too neatly set-out, but Moscovitch gives it an edge by making it Rudi’s voyage of self-discovery, told with a knowing flirtatiousness that seeks audience complicity. His invitation to meet his father, present in the depths of the room formed of archives, finally takes a bitter direction.
We may never see more of the father than his army uniform jacket, but his impact on both his son and as a dead hand on the future eventually becomes apparent.
Playing in Blythe Stewart’s production is clear, Jordan McCurrach’s ironic volatility as Rudi contrasted on one side by Tom Lincoln’s purposefully insistent Hermann and on the other by the open expression of emotional extremes Jo Herbert finds in Sarah.
The design and lighting people should, though, have considered the projections, which they render anything but clear.
Rudi: Jordan McCurrach.
Hermann: Tom Lincoln.
Sarah: Jo Herbert.
Director: Blythe Stewart.
Designer/Costume: Holly Pigott.
Lighting: Seth Rook Williams.
Sound: Keri Danielle Chesser.
Video: Jasmine Robinson.