A complex and difficult play adroitly staged
By Adam Tonking
We are so far removed from the world of Nazi Germany in World War II that the true stories of the atrocities that took place are often near impossible to believe.
Himmelweg is one of the lesser known and more bizarre of these horror stories, and it is a rich source of material for a play, presenting several tricky moral dilemmas for the characters and the audience to navigate. It is also an important and fascinating exploration of this deeply disturbing period in our history.
Redroom Theatre and director Alister Smith present an excellent production; the lighting and set design, as well as the sound, are spare and elegant and used effectively to evoke the era, and also to separate the play into its abstract first half and more naturalistic second half.
I think the material could have benefited from an older cast, simply because the emotional complexity may have been beyond such a young group of actors. However, they still acquit themselves capably, in particular the actors portraying the Commandant and Gottfried. These characters have to carry the entire second half in what is more or less the Commandant talking at Gottfried, and the actors performed admirably.
At a running time of two hours, there should have been plenty of material to sustain the action, however the second half becomes very repetitive with very little new information introduced.
The cast, under the superb direction of Smith, work valiantly to keep the story moving and inject as much interest as possible, but can’t quite keep the material from slowing the pace.
I think the cast and the production team deserve commendation for staging what is a difficult and challenging piece, yet a terribly important story from a time that should not be forgotten, and I encourage everyone to see it.
Himmelweg is on at Theatre Works 14 Acland Street, St Kilda from June 21 to July 1.
Book at www.theatreworks.org.au or by calling 9534 3388.