"performed with skill and honesty"
by Aline Waites for remotegoat on 10/03/19

There is nothing more frightening and heart sinking than the sight of a large yellow star pinned to the garments – and in this play all the cast but one have this horrific symbol attached to every costume they wear. The other one sports a Swastika on his left arm.

The setting is Westerbork, a transit camp in Holland in 1942.

The one with the Swastika is the commandant of the camp Conrad Schaffer played by Mike Duran.

The others belong to a concert party who are incarcerated in the transit camp. Victor played by Lloyd Morris is the guvnor, plays the clarinet and is chief comic of the troupe, Anna Hilmann (Faye Maughan) is a dancer, Peter (Nick Delvalle) writes the songs and is straight man to Victor and Millie (Eloise Jones) is the very youngest member of the company. She sings, dances and plays the guitar.

Millie and Anna are sisters and both are concerned that their Mother Ette (Cate Morris) is not well and is on the list to be sent away to the ‘HOLIDAY CAMP’ All Ette wants to do is find her husband and their father who disappeared a couple of years ago. She thinks that release from the transit camp will give her the freedom to look for him. Of course, there can be no release except to a concentration camp.

Anna goes to Conrad’s office to do his cleaning and he becomes very attracted to her, making her dance for him when she has finished her chores. She persuades him to take her mother off the list. He thinks that maybe she would become his mistress or even his wife.

Ian Buckley is an experienced writer and he has created very believable characters. I got to know them very well during the couple of hours I spent with them – they were completely convincing and performed their parts with skill and honesty.

The second act begins with the show specially put on for the commandant and the inmates of the camp. It was not an easy play to cast and Anthony Shrubsall did a great job finding a cast with the required musical talents. The concert party players all have to be able to sing , dance, play instruments and do comedy acting. I feel the singing, playing and dancing is not difficult for any of them, but am at a loss to understand the mimed comedy routine. On the press night, the audience found it difficult to know when to clap except from the couple of turns performed by Millie who finished her acts like a true professional.

I’m relieve that Conrad was not played in the usual Nazi style. He is of course a bully, but managed to inject some charm into the role that took the edge off it. The old story ‘I was just obeying orders’ actually works in his case.

An interesting take on an only too frequently told sad story.

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