Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Review No Place For A Woman


A two hander set during the last days of Nazi Germany leaves Peter Barker questioning when it is appropriate to use such events as the backdrop for drama.

No Place For A Woman
by Cordelia O'Neill

Officers, Not Gentlemen
https://theatre503.com/

A Second World War drama, No Place For A Woman by Cordelia O'Neill, charts the parallel lives of two women, one a German officer's wife, the other a younger concentration camp inmate snatched away for her ballet talent and forced into an unwanted relationship.
 
Set in Nazi occupied Poland, Annie (Ruth Gemmell) has a brute of a husband, always unseen, who would have made the cut as a character in every prisoner-of-war or concentration camp movie you've ever seen. The other younger woman, Isabella (Emma Paetz) survives because she can dance.  

The two are linked by Annie's spouse.  

The Holocaust as subject matter has not always proved problem free. The criticisms direted against movie Life Is Beautiful and the marketing of the KZ Musik project show where the fictionalization or alleged reinvention of facts have struck many, at best, as inappropriate.

No Place For A Woman falls into neither category but it does beg questions about when it is meaningful to use The Holocaust or any other tragic event as a backdrop and when it is not.  

The actors are accompanied on stage by a cellist, Elliot Rennie, behind a gauze screen. Designer Camilla Clarke has created a black rectangle of a stage where the only embellishments are tiny coat hooks.

Director Kate Budgen has her actors performing what amounts to separate monologues at the start, but the story's trajectory brings them together as they remember and recreate the past.

Both Ruth Gemmell and Emma Paetz put in good performances, the former haughty and eloquent although with deepening emotional wounds, while the latter is vulnerable yet determined to survive as the camp prisoner.

But did I learn anything new about the history of this era and was the background necessary?

Originally called Tanzen Macht Frei, I can’t say for one moment that this play did a disservice to history, or was an attempt at exploiting a horrifying event. However, I did find myself questioning the point of this play and it's an amber light for a drama strangely disconnected from its background.

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