Judenfrei - Theatre Review

Holocaust drama explores Hitler’s attempts to rid the legal profession of Jewish lawyers – in JUDENFREI at the New End Theatre in New End, Hampstead.

FORMER history teacher Kate Glover founded the Historia Theatre Company to stage new plays inspired by history.

She’s written and acted in plays about the Gunpowder Plot and slave trade - here, she does the Holocaust.

Glover was inspired to write J�denfrei (free of Jews) after seeing an exhibition about Jewish lawyers living in Nazi Germany. Law was one profession Hitler tried to make J�denfrei. Through Philipp and Hanna - fictitious young lawyers in love - and their families, J�denfrei imagines how terrible life must have been.

This well-meaning play acts out a story we know only too well. An hour of domestic scenes with tense family debates about staying or fleeing at least means hope remains. After the interval, Kristallnacht; and hope’s gone.

J�denfrei’s simple story offers no surprises. The problem is, much of the dialogue explaining the story is superfluous - more emphasis on emotions, unspoken, wouldn’t go amiss. Wracked, gut-wrenching equivocation from the dilemma of not knowing what to do, in the play’s first half; despair in the second; or steely, hope-giving resolve amid the ashes of grief, right at the very end.

Nevertheless, this is a worthy, honest production in a small, back room-like, subsidy-free theatre. One can forgive occasional hammy acting and a few fluffed lines.

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J�denfrei is a first lesson not only about the Holocaust, but also the value of imagining the past to make learning history easier.

* Showing at the New End Theatre in New End, Hampstead, NW3, until Sunday, January 30.