THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS
adapted by Angus Jackson from the book by John Boyne.
Tour to 27 June 2015.
Runs 1hr 55min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 March.
Whatever the limits, a well-told story that creates the atmosphere of its period, and not a simple re-run of the film.
Already known as a film, John Boyne’s novel about the friendship formed between the 9-year old son of a newly-appointed Auschwitz commander and a Jewish prisoner exactly the same age is sturdily told here, while Angus Jackson’s adaptation ends on a questioning note.
Scenes are introduced by an old-fashioned typewriter’s heavy clatter as titles are spelled-out in large letters on the rear wall. Only the opening and closing scenes stand outside events, as introduction and pointed statement that such events could never happen now – leaving an unspoken ‘Could they?’ in the air.
If some of this may be beyond the minimum suggested audience age of 11, things also remain beyond Bruno’s awareness. His teacher’s certainty Jews aren’t human doesn’t seem to infect him. Eleanor Thorn’s sister, some five years older, helps calibrate the degree of consciousness, with the swastika armband she starts wearing, and her correcting Bruno when he calls their new home ‘Out-With’. Then there’s her eruption of anger against a servant.
Gretel’s growing-up in the Nazi world her mother encountered in adulthood, knowing another Germany. Marianne Oldham simultaneously shows surface poise in the Commandant’s wife, and her underlying distaste for Nazism, with her anxiety to protect her children from the world around.
Thorn, and Rosie Wyatt as the family servant, also do well, Wyatt’s Maria suppressing her views in an hierarchic society. The men are mostly bound by their militaristic beliefs, with their limited emotional range; Robert Styles’ fearful, cowed prisoner makes a pointed contrast.
The play struggles too with the Führer who comes to dinner. Wisely, he’s kept offstage but a few barked commands hardly accounts for Germany’s magnetic tyrant.
Jackson’s adaptation has clunky moments, especially at scene ends. But it tells its story conscientiously and establishes the atmosphere of fear.
It relies heavily on two young boys. Certainly Cameron Duncan as the Commandant’s uncomprehending son and Sam Peterson as the Jewish prisoner are impressive in their scenes talking across the barbed-wire starkly dividing them, ironically united in shaved hair and ultimate fate, mixing childhood confidence with the vulnerability that climaxes in the destiny that clangs shut upon them.
Bruno: Jabez Cheeseman/Cameron Duncan/Tom Hibberd.
Shmuel: Colby Mulgrew/Sam Peterson/Finlay Wright-Stephens.
Grandmother: Helen Anderson.
Eva: Eva Bell.
Herr Liszt: Andrew Bone.
Kotler/Soldier 4: Ed Brody.
Father: Phil Cheadle.
Soldier 3: Kit Lessner.
Mother: Marianne Oldham.
Pavel/Hitler: Robert Styles.
Gretel: Eleanor Thorn.
Maria: Rosie Wyatt.
Ensemble: Lisa Baird.
Director: Joe Murphy.
Designer/Costume: Robert Innes Hopkins.
Lighting: Malcolm Rippeth.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Composer: Stephen Warbeck.
Video: Andrzej Goulding.
Movement: Lizzi Gee.
Vocal coach: Kay Welsh.
Fight director: Paul Benzing.
Associate director: Jon Pashley.
3-7 March Wed 1pm, Thu 10.30am & 2.30pm; Fri 2.30pm & 7pm Sat 2.30pm & 7.45pm Royal & Derngate (Royal auditorium) Northampton 01604 624811 www.royalandderngate.co.uk
10-14 March Tue 7.30pm Wed 1.30pm Thu 10.30am & 2.30pm Fri 7pm Sat 2.30pm & 7.30pm Malvern Festival Theatre 01684 892277 www.malvern-theatres.co.uk
17-21 Mar Tue 7.30pm Wed 1.30pm Thu10.30am & 2.30pm Fri 7pm Sat 2.30pm & 7pm Theatre Royal Nottingham 0115 989 5555 www.trch.co.uk
25-28 Mar 7pm Mat Thu & Sat 1pm Marlowe Theatre Canterbury 01227 7877887 www.marlowetheatre.com
30 Mar-4 Apr Mon 7pm Tue 5.30pm Wed 1.30pm & 7pm Thu 7pm Sat 2pm & 7pm Liverpool Playhouse 0151 709 4776 www.everymanplayhouse.com
15-18 Apr 7pm Mat Thu & Sat 2pm The Lowry Salford 0843 208 6000 www.thelowry.com
21-25 Apr Tue 7pm Wed 2pm Thu 2.30pm Fri 2pm & 7.30pm Sat 2.30pm & 7.30pm Wycombe Swan High Wycombe 01494 512000 www.wycombeswan.co.uk
28 Apr-2 May 7pm Mat Wed 1.30pm, Thu & Sat 2.30pm Rose Theatre Kingston-upon-Thames 030 8174 0090 www.rosetheatrekingston.org
5-9 May Tue 7.30pm Wed 2.30pm Thu 10.30am & 2.30pm Fri 7.30pm Sat 2.30pm & 7.30pm Theatre Royal Norwich 01603 630000 www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk
11-16 May Mon-Thu 7pm Fri, Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu 1pm Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Plymouth (The Lyric) 01752 267222 www.theatreroyal.com
19-23 May 7pm Mat Wed, Thu, Sat 2pm Theatre Royal Newcastle-upon-Tyne 0844 811 2121 www.theatreroyal.co.uk
2-6 June Tue 7pm Wed 1.30pm Thu 10.30am & 2.30pm Fri 7pm Sat 2.30pm & 7pm Grand Theatre Blackpool 01253 743338 www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk
9-13 June Tue 7.15pm Wed 1.45pm Thu 10am & 1.45pm Fri 7.15pm Sat 2.30pm & 7.15pm Grand Theatre Wolverhampton 01902 429212 www.grandtheatre.co.uk
16-20 June Tue 1.30pm Wed, Thu 10am & 2pm Fri 7pm Sat 2.30pm & 7pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm BSL Signed Fri Belgrade Theatre Coventry 02 www.belgrade.co.uk
23-27 June 7pm Mat Wed, Thu 1.30pm Sat 2.30pm Cambridge Arts Theatre 01223 503333 www.cambridgeartstheatre.com