BritishTheatre

Published on

September 25, 2023

REVIEW: The White Factory, Marylebone Theatre ✭✭✭✭✭

By

douglasmayo

Our very own theatreCat Libby Purves reviews The White Factory now playing at Marylebone Theatre, London.

The White Factory

Adrian Schiller. Photo: Mark Senior The White Factory

Marylebone Theatre

5 Stars

Book Tickets THE INFECTION OF WICKEDNESS

The history of the Lodz ghetto in Poland is a part of the Holocaust story worth foxusing on, ot least because the Jewish population there were made use of for years in near-starvation and hars labour  before being, with that icy Nazi efficiency, disposed of. This remarkable play opens in Bonn, 1960: a chocolate factory boss bullying an employee. Abruptlt, a news bulletin tells us the German boss has been arrested: Wm.Koppe was the  SS Obengruppefuehrer in charge of the Lodz ghetto .

The White Factory

Photo: Mark Senior

The light  changes, and far away in Brooklyn a Jewish lawyer  suddenly in distress claws the walls , prising open a chasm into 1940. This is a bleak and magnificent memory play about conscience, compromise and corruption, based in Holocaust history but laced with angry shameful relevance in the age of Putin. The Russian  playwright is Dmitri Glukhovsky,  his director - inventive, shiveringly well-paced  - is Maxim Didenko. Both are political exiles of this war.

The fictional hero is Mark Quartley as Josef Kaufman, a lawyer with a healthy contempt for the Nazi soldiers:  here's a man who won't sew a yellow star on his jacket! Except that he will, very soon, for  mere survival.  Anyone who fantasises about being a defiant hero in such circumstances needs to see that moment: the scrabbling to get scraps of yellow cloth for his little boys' sweaters.

THe White Factory

Mark Quarterley and Pearl Chanda. Photo: Mark Senior

The officer Wilhelm Koppe is a historical character, and so  is Chaim Rumkowski, the  elder of the ghetto, given the job by the contemptous SS chief to keep 200,000 Jews in order, and penned inside the ghetto.  Adrian Schiller is superb as Chaim, who in those desperate circumstances thought that by turning every corner into a  factory - producing uniforms and boots for the invaders  - he would make the community  " irreplaceable!"and save them. But for the old, sick and unproductive there was soon a   "resettlement" train to death.

Elegant  lighting - a particular feature of this show by Alex Musgrave, at one point shows one side the blue-chill calculations of the Nazi exterminators and across the stage the golden warmth of Kaufman's family (two little boys playing, Pearl Chanda as the wife tending the grumpy grandfather.  Sometimes hand-held cameras  - brilliantly done, not distracting as they sometimes can be - throw faces into monochrome projections.  And sometimes, as grandfather or later Kaufman tells a story to the children,  there are wonderful animations of Jewish legend and faith - the Golem especially - created  by Oleg Mikahilov .

Marylebone Theatre

Olivia Bernstone and James Garnon. Photo: Mark Senior

Not only is the staging remarkable, but there is a toughness here:   no  feelgood heroism, no saviour hero, no Schindler.  Rather we see old Chaim compromising, organizing deportations,  finally making the famous speech asking parents to give up their children when the Nazis order a cull.  "I come to you like a bandit, to take what you treasure most..". On his knees to Koppe he gets the order reduced so that children over ten can stay and work in the factories, but he is personally damaged by the compromise of his life and jobs. Startlingly for those who want pure heroes, he is also seen in his stress as as creepily predatory on the young women.   Similarly, a savage knock on the door is as likely to be the Jewish police as Nazis. And even Kaufman is finally enlisted, rounding  up other people's children to save his own in an extraordinarily powerful sequence of rhythmic knocking on doors.

Marylebone Theatre

Photo: Mark Senior

All lose in the end, and there is bitterness in the fact that Koppe loses less than anyone, and lived on free after his 1960 arrest and trial due to "ill health".    That trial, starkly staged at the end, sees the  Brooklyn lawyer dirtied by the horror, smugly reminded that he too ended up obeying orders.  Perfectly staged and played,  this is a cruel, moral, brilliant and necessary play for all times. It should put this small new enterprising theatre firmly on the map.

The White Factory runs at Marylebone Theatre  to 4 November

https://britishtheatre.com/the-white-factory-at-marylebone-theatre-first-look-rehearsal-images/

 

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The British Theatre website has been established to celebrate the rich and diverse theatrical culture of the United Kingdom.  Our ethos revolves around encouraging and nurturing the performing arts in all its forms. The spirit of theatre is very much alive and the British Theatre website is at the forefront of delivering news and information to audiences and enthusiasts everywhere. Our team of theatre journalists and reviewers are working hard to cover productions and news.


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ABOUT BRITISHTHEATRE

BritishTheatre.com
Opening Night Media Ltd
3rd Floor, 80 St. Martin’s Lane
Covent Garden
London WC2N 4AA

The British Theatre website has been established to celebrate the rich and diverse theatrical culture of the United Kingdom.  Our ethos revolves around encouraging and nurturing the performing arts in all its forms. The spirit of theatre is very much alive and the British Theatre website is at the forefront of delivering news and information to audiences and enthusiasts everywhere. Our team of theatre journalists and reviewers are working hard to cover productions and news.


We are constantly developing the site and are always open to receiving feedback from our readers. Join our mailing list to be kept informed of all the latest news that is of interest to you..