THE JEWISH WIFE
by Bertolt Brecht translated by John Willett.
BAC To 14 August 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm; also 5-7. 10-14 Aug at 9pm.
Runs 1hr No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7223 2223.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 31 July.
Detailed theatrical planning, but the central performance is the focus.
From cosy foyer corner, up ill-lit stone steps surely not meant for audiences, through small antechamber, menacingly (given the subject) filled with mist, to a room looking like an old laboratory. Admitted five at a time, the audience is atomised, each one complicit in choosing where to sit on chairs huddled in small groups.
Later audience members – last tram to Auschwitz? – choose from the few remaining seats. The door periodically opens to admit more, in solemn near-silence as newcomers look at where they’ve come and those present survey the new arrivals. So Matthew Evans, this year’s winner of the James Menzies-Kitchen award for young directors, has made an impact before The Jewish Wife has properly started.
Though it’s a quarter-way through the hour before anything happens up here. A couple of Brecht songs, sung downstairs by Kristin Hutchison, accompanying herself on piano, and the slow entrance procedure have passed the time. And what we see – or hear – first, is a brief Brecht piece on the wireless.
Worker’s Playtime has Jack Chedburn and Martyn Dempsey capture the bright manner of an old-style BBC (Berlin Broadcasting Company?) interviewer meeting the working-class, trying to enthuse everyone and infuse life with the joy of working under National Socialism.
So finally to the Jewish Wife, Hutchinson again. Like Worker’s Playtime, the brief piece probes the hopeful surfaces which canopied fear and misery in early Hitler Germany. She’s exemplary in the ‘phone conversations where she arranges for her doctor-husband to be looked after, pretending her absence will be for days. It’s not only the timing of these one-sided calls; every facial flicker suggests what’s being said down the line, and the Wife’s reaction as she acknowledges the reality while maintaining the pretence.
Similar detail is present as she carefully chooses what to include in her luggage, folding her non-Jewish husband’s photo in clothing. The final conversation with him again contrasts bright words and hesitant manner, the falsity summed-up by her fur coat. Brutal truth seems to interrupt as lights periodically flash and sounds noisily crackle. It’s a rich theatrical environment for this sliver of a piece.
Judith: Kristin Hutchinson.
Fritz: Mark Lockyer.
Wireless voices: Jack Chedburn, Martyn Dempsey.
Director: Matthew Evans.
Designer/Costume: Moi Tran.
Lighting: Christopher Naime.
Sound: Manuel Pinheiro.
Music: Sholom Secunda.
Music arranger: Daniel Saleeb.