by Emily Juniper.
The King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN to 1 April 2012.
18, 19, 25, 26 March, 1 April 7.15pm Mat 1 April 3pm.
Runs 1hr 5min No Interval.
TICKETS:0207 478 0166
Review: William Russell 18 March.
Payback time worth spending.
A young man stands in an art gallery somewhere in Germany, rapt in front of a picture the audience cannot see. The assistant curator is worried. Time to close. The young man refuses to leave.
We discover eventually that the picture once belonged to his grandparents, who were Jews. His mother, now dead, who escaped before the Holocaust, had been searching all her life for it. He wants it back. The curator says the picture is on loan and the owner is her mother.
How did it come into her family? Were they Nazis? Did they steal it? Or were they simply complicit purchasers of stolen goods? The girl does not know. Her mother, whom we never see, refuses to meet the man. It is an interesting dilemma – who does the picture belong to? The heirs of the person stolen from, or those who may now own it innocently?
Or does great art, which it may well be, belong to the nation, for all to see on museum walls? The whole issue or reparations for war crimes, crimes of empire, is complex and the arguments get aired. Emily Juniper has come up with an intriguing playlet although its denouement, which one really should not disclose, raises other rather disturbing issues.
Alastair Kirton and Chloe Gilgallon handle the roles of Robert, the young man demanding the picture, and the overly naïve assistant well, although he is possibly a bit too much of an anorak at times – a soil engineer who waxes a shade enthusiastic about his profession – and she should surely have known all about the problem of stolen art-works ending-up on museum walls.
Julia McShane has directed things with a firm hand, and Juniper has created a moving and sometimes funny conversation-piece. I am not so sure about the lyrical passages when Berta relates the tale behind the picture – it is of Hero, the lady Leander drowned going to meet – but the monologues do serve a purpose in that they give us some idea of what the unseen picture amounts to and what the fuss is all about.
Berta: Chloe Gilgallon.
Robert: Alastair Kirton.
Director: Julia McShane.
Designer: Anna Bliss Scully.
Lighting: Tom White.
Sound: Amber Priestly.