21 Oct

A new play by Judith Burnley
At the Jermyn Street Theatre

A beautifully appointed flat in Belsize Park in 1991 colourful in contemporary colours and antique furniture with exquisite pictures on the walls and a viola lying on the chaise Longue. There is a very sophisticated radio system with two enormous speakers and Brahms filling the room with sound.
Otto is an irascible, elderly musician, after adjusting the sound, he picks up the instrument and begins to mime playing to the music.
The doorbell interrupts him. He shouts For two or three times ‘Go away I’m working’ and refuses to answer it , but the person behind the door is very persistent so eventually he opens the door a little and the woman outside it stops it from shutting on her.
She addresses him in German. This makes him angry. He doesn’t want German spoken in his house. He has concentrated on absorbing Englishness and is to all intents and purposes English. He wants to kill the past. He is the only member of his family not to be murdered by the Gestapo and he carries guilt by being the only survivor.
He has recently had a stroke and she has been sent by his daughter to be his Carer. It would be an obvious thought to send a German person, thinking that they would have something in common, but for most of the play they are at loggerheads. She is from an Aristocratic family, but she also is a displaced person. She had an English nanny who died in tragic circumstances – being thought of as an English spy in Germany. Otto suspects her, he sits her down and shines a light in her eyes and questions her like an inquisitor.
Lottie just a child during the war but her family were the victims of an air raid. Her English nanny had taught to be Anglophile by reading her stories from Winnie the Pooh and she has lived her life dreaming of the Hundred Acre Woods and the games of Poohsticks which she thinks is a way to live her life. Otto hates Winnie the Pooh, calling it sentimental and childish.
Finally, they begin to realise they are both Citizens of Nowhere and are trying to live their lives with the Guilt engendered by being survivors.
This is a beautifully written and produced play. The perfect period setting and costumes are by Emily Adamson and Neil Irish and lit by Elliot Griggs.
But of course, in a two hander the greatest applause must be for the amazingly truthful, funny and deeply moving performances by Clive Merrison and Issy van Randwyck. The casting and expert direction is by Alice Hamilton.
The new Artistic Director of Jermyn Street, Tom Litter, is showing his talent for finding unusual, thought provoking works for this little theatre.

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