East of Berlin at The Bakehouse Theatre

Clare Mansfield & Adam Carter in East of Berlin. Image supplied
Clare Mansfield & Adam Carter in East of Berlin. Image supplied

East of Berlin is a psychological drama written by Canadian Playwright Hannah Moscovitch (her first full-length play, at the age of 29) in 2007.

Running for 80 minutes without an interval, the storyline attempts to be complex but the structure is simplistic and Moscovitch skims over issues without an elucidative sense of reality or understanding. It is a story within a story, a father and son relationship, which details the response of the son Rudi (played by Adam Carter) to his dad’s activities as a doctor in Auschwitz during World War Two.

Living relatively happily in Paraguay, Rudi is told about his father by his best friend Hermann, also the son of a Nazi. This sets Rudi off on an adventure of discovery back to Germany, where he studies medicine and falls in love with Sarah, the Jewish daughter of Auschwitz survivors.

The Bakehouse Theatre’s set is bare and black with a door centre stage at the rear and a barbed wire fence either side of that. There is a small black bookcase on one side and a small black platform in front of the door. The set indicates austerity but most of all it comes across as plain and simple, even flimsy. Alex Ramsay’s lighting design tries to be stark but only manages to be elementary and he displayed a poor sense of professional timing. In fact much of this play is plain and simple. The set, the costumes, the acting, the direction and the script itself is just too pedestrian.

Director Peter Green does add some dynamism to the drama but not nearly enough to engage the audience across the entire show. In fairness, he doesn’t have a lot to work with.

Carter as Rudi looks the part of a young Aryan and he displayed an excellent ability to remember some long monologues but his acting lacks depth. Part of the problem is the role is written with a sense of trepidation. Intricate matters of love, guilt and sexuality are raised but nothing is fully explored.

Supporting actors Clare Mansfield as Rudi’s love interest Sarah and Tom Cornwall as Rudi’s best friend Hermann both perform their roles adequately but the script leaves them as little more than peripheral characters.

It’s easy to see how this play might win over a captive audience with a vested interest but it needs dramatic development before it will be able to satisfy a sophisticated market. The script is artifice without knowledge. For all the confronting issues this play raises, a final confrontation (or any for that matter) between the dominant Dad and Son roles is missing. Ultimately, this production smacks of an amateur company from the outer suburbs in a community theatre. East of Berlin is south of the usual standards set by Peter Green and The Bakehouse Theatre.

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