Review: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The Grand Theatre stage is empty of any life as the audience is subdued to silence by anticipation for the performance to begin. An elusive silhouette, Helen Anderson, emerges. Strategic lighting draws attention to her excellent costume and grace- you could almost be convinced she had travelled forwards from the thirties in that moment. Her mouth widens and she begins to sing. The play has begun.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a hugely successful and heart-wrenching tale written by John Boyne. It is captured effortlessly throughout this play, the portrayal of protagonist Bruno by Cameron Duncan brilliantly highlighting all senses of ignorance, naivety and loss of innocence drawn upon by Hitler’s Germany. Not only does the script and design reflect cleverly on the horrific beauty of the story but also twists the plot subtly to give the play itself some individuality. Robert Innes Hopkins’ clever use of a round platform, which elevates characters to a variety of levels, depicts a hierarchical divide between all involved in the Holocaust, ultimately describing the true disparity between the evil of the Nazified adults and the blissful ignorance granted by the childrens’ innocence.

One aspect of Angus Jackson’s script which I particularly favoured was the focus on the story as a moral lesson, acclaimed in the play itself as a ‘fable’. The irony that develops this idea is overpowering and suffocated with realisation; the realisation of the horror that more than six million Jews perished as part of Hitler’s ambitions for an Aryan master race, indeed a real event and not simply the events of an old wives tale as one would expect from such an atrocity.

I cannot possibly review this play without applauding the incredible ensemble of Cameron Duncan playing Bruno and Colby Mulgrew portraying Shmuel. The intensity of the true friendship displayed by the pair seemed to fill the theatre with an overarching humble warmth, despite the sheer chill felt by the horrifying story at hand. Both young actors performed faultlessly and receive my highest commendations for such an accurate portrayal of Boyne’s original characters.

It must also be said how accurate and effective the costume and overall creative aspect of the production truly was. I felt as if was watching from the very streets of Berlin as I listened to the boys’ dramatic play or sitting in the corner of the room whilst the S.S. guards received their most deadly instructions from above. This review does appear to be highly positive but as a history student I cannot commend it enough for the preciseness of the context imagined by the whole performance.

This play is not one to be missed. Acting as both a tear-provoking tale of friendship and loss as well as a history lesson of the finest calibre, it really does reiterate to viewers how important it is that such crimes should never have to be perpetrated by any human, ever again.

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