Thick, black curtains mark the entrance to pre-war Poland, set out in the ACT studio. Music plays in the distance as a woman sits on the floor, scrubbing clothes in a tin bucket, newspapers littering the stage along side a scatter of gold stars. Pulling back the curtains, we search for somewhere to sit, soon becoming aware of the paper tags on our seats, each with a different name. ‘This performance is in memory of… Ruth May’.
The ensemble use movement to bring their monologues to life, shocking us with realistic violence.
Each character takes it in turns to tell their story, marking the changes experienced before WWII commenced and how, as Jews, they suffered during. The ensemble use movement to bring their monologues to life, shocking us with realistic violence. At one point,they symbolised the killings during these times by curling together to form a lifeless bundle, becoming draped in a shimmering red piece of cloth - an image that will never leave me. Simplistic prop techniques like this were effective as they were using a limited space which meant the stage became chaotic with countless pieces of clothing, papers and larger objects such as suitcases.
Recordings of Holocaust survivors were played in between scenes, introducing the monologue of the next character. Whispers could be heard as the lights dimmed to red, sending shivers down my spine. Reaching 1940, they ‘welcome’ us to Auschwitz - ‘welcome to hell’. Disturbing, horrific encounters are told by survivors, including the arrivals of trains carrying Jews, how they were mercilessly picked apart and the remorseless fates they were given by the SS men. Eichmann, Himmler and Mengele were among the Auschwitz operators to be mentioned, their actions leaving us gasping with horror and covering our mouths with shock.
Writer and director Josh Watsize aims to ensure that the destructive, inhumane nature of the holocaust and other genocides are not forgotten so that they may never happen again. In the final act the company recite the timelines of genocides, including the amount of deaths, to emphasise how often these tragedies happen and how many innocent lives are claimed. Leaving us with the message that ‘under the skin we are all the same’, and the wish we will never ‘fall prey to collective amnesia’. The Fuhrer Will Now Speak is a powerful and gripping piece of historical drama.