Friday, February 05, 2010


I'm heading into a couple of weeks of cultural craziness - no, not the Olympics (which would classify as craziness...and other things... but that's another story).  It started last night with KAMP - a play by the fantastically creative, Rotterdam-based Hotel Modern.   I met up with my pal A. there, and we both brought along our well coordinated relatives (meaning they both share the same birthday and matching surgery scars, and not that they are both able to walk and chew gum at the same time - hey, it's my blog, I can tease if I want to...this post needs a bit of levity, trust me.)

I'm not sure where to start really.  When you walk into the room, the stage area is covered by an incredible, tiny, detailed scale model of Auschwitz.  The theatre troupe of three then starts to tell the story of a day in the life of this concentration camp - everything from the human cargo trains coming in and out, the painful repetitive hard labour, desperate suicides, gas chamber murders, meager rations, the broken bodies - all by manipulating tiny figures in this incredible set.  Often, the action was filmed and projected on the white curtains that surrounded the set, providing a really amazing interplay of scale, of live, real-time action and projection.  All many of us have seen of Auschwitz is in film, either news footage or cinematic recreation; the fact that the action being projected was happening right in front of us helped remove the safe distance film allows - not only from what was being seen as part of the play, but really all footage you might have seen of this horror in the past.

There was no dialogue - just incredible, intense sound - the scraping of the shovels, the screaming whine of the train on the tracks.  And we all just sat, quiet and still, completely transfixed.  There were no personal narratives told - this story was the ugly machinery of day to day life in this unimaginably horrendous situation, and the incredible scale of what was happening.   For me, that is perhaps the hardest thing to really grasp about the Holocaust - the scale.   This piece did a beautiful job of making it tangible.  

There was a Q&A afterward.  One of the questions raised was when will this be history?  If you mean specifically what transpired in this one camp - well, strictly speaking it is history; if you mean genocide, the answer is obviously very different.  The reasons the Holocaust is still such an active and important story to tell are many and various.  As we chatted on the way home, the fact that in part, the importance of what happened at Auschwitz is to remind us that we, despite our illusions to the contrary, can so easily do the unimaginable, given the right situation, the right social permission, the right recognition.  It's a horrible thing to have to face up to, and it is all too easy to forget.  For that reason - and many more - this story has to be told, again and again.   YAY to Hotel Modern for doing it in such a fantastic, fresh, creative way.

Up next: Robert Lepage's The Blue Dragon, next Tuesday night  - I CAN'T WAIT

1 comment:

sugarlove said...

It sounds like an amazing evening at the theatre Bunkle, and I wish we had been there too. In any event, I know we will have much to talk about after you see The Blue Dragon, which we had the privilege of seeing earlier today. It's a much lighter journey, but a beautiful one nonetheless. Can't wait to compare notes.