I agree with Sarah – this is a must-see play. A brilliant mix of theatre, video and physicality with a strong story. Atmospheric and intriguing, I left wanting to discover much more about this character. He is an important part of European history, yet I had never heard of him.
This play makes his story very personal, cleverly taking the audience into his experiences and hopes.
If it is produced again, make sure you get hold of a ticket.
Penelope (Unverified), 02/07/12
This absorbing and interesting play is so well written and acted that previous knowledge of the historical context is not needed. However, thoughtfully, the programme notes tell us all we need to know. Briefly, in late 1944, Raoul Wallenberg (played by John Marshall) a Swedish diplomat, risked his life by providing neutral Swedish passports to Jewish Hungarians, which gave them protection from the Gestapo and Hungarian fascists. Thousands of Hungarian Jews were rescued. In January 1945 the Russians arrested him as a spy and he was never seen again. In this play by Catherine Comfort, Wallenberg shares a Soviet prison cell with a fictional character, Stefan (Benji Mingh) and is haunted by memories and dreams from the past.
The play itself is about ninety minutes long. There is an interval after about 30 minutes – a pity, I feel, as the mood created by impressive acting is diminished a little by the gap. The entire play revolves round the prison cell, but is hugely enhanced by use of film. The background film shows Wallenberg‘s memories and dreams. Each section is short, with the exception of a cold Russian (played by Alex Babic). His performance in particular is chilling – as too is that of Miriam (Amy Enticknap), who plays a girl left behind.
The acting by Marshall and Mingh is excellent and the whole play well worth seeing. An imaginative set (by Lisa Thomas) simply complements this superbly directed (by Tania Higgins) piece. Yes, I have minor complaints - the carrying of the latrine, the use of ’fuck‘ rather than ’fick/ficker‘ - but these do not detract from the overall effect. It would also have been interesting if the script or programme notes had mentioned Carl Lutz, Wallenberg‘s predecessor, who taught Wallenberg how to help the Jewish people.
The play is only on for one more night – grab your chance to see it whilst you can, and bring your friends. You will not be disappointed.
chrisOSL (DI Reviewer), 30/06/12
I was dragged along to see Whatever happened to Wallenberg? tonight. I hate the theatre - hence the 'dragged'.
I do believe I have had a 'theatrical epiphany'. The play was fantastic! To give a balanced review I will state all the good points and then the negative ones.
Well acted both in real life and on film.
A simple set that fitted the play.
A well-crafted script.
Expert use of ambient sounds and music.
A play based on fact.
Unusually, this kept my interest throughout. It actually made me want to read more (there are dvds and books about Wallenberg on Amazon).
Well done Messrs Comfort, Higgins and others.
Shazmin (Unverified), 30/06/12
I saw the Wallenberg play last night. The set design was simplicity in itself and yet the storyline was rather more complex. The rescuing of Jews...the kidnap of Wallenberg...the accusation of spying. Clever usage of film took the audience well beyond the confines of the theatre.
There were two main actors, plus Adie George as a Russian Guard. The acting was riveting, absorbing, intriguing - I have run out of superlatives.
The script was well written - the flow was maintained throughout. Perhaps a little more sadness from Wallenberg (John Marshall) as he described the deaths of so many Jews would have been good. But no tears - they had all dried up a long time ago.
If you want high value for money then go and see this play - and then further broaden your experience by picking up a copy of Pushkin's poems from Amazon.
Well done to Catherine Comfort (writer) and Tania Higgins (Director).
Tom (Unverified), 30/06/12
This is a short review as I am doing this by iPhone. Amazingly there are no reviews of this fabulous play! Shame on you audience! I went to see this last night and the clapping lasted a full five minutes! A sterling performance, accomplished actors , a dynamic script and wonderful film support. This is a must-view play! Never mind if you prefer cinema - go and see this! An enthralling story .
Sarah (Unverified), 30/06/12
The true answer to the title of this mixed-media play is: 'no-one knows'. Catherine Comfort's terse, hard-hitting script and Tania Higgins' inspired direction, however, ensure that none of us will forget this protagonist: a man whose heroic and selfless determination to save the lives of captured Jews is almost unknown to history. He was allowed to disappear from public knowledge, possibly due to a combination of misunderstanding and Russian fear that he might have been a American spy.
Higgins draws together a super-competent team comprising sound and visual technical skills from The Deck Theatre Company and the live acting brilliance of John Marshall as Wallenberg, Benji Mingh as his depressed cell-mate and Adie Gargan as the Russian guard - the resulting atmosphere being ominous and nightmarish. The cyclical, unhurried repetition within the play enables us, in just over an hour, to imagine the tens of thousands of hours of the protagonists' pointless captivity. The sparse set, sensitive lighting and evocative sound are superbly contrived to achieve the breathtakingly timeless feel of Comfort's play.
We feel their frustration and the deadly corrosive boredom that threatens their sanity. Mingh's descent is balanced by the disciplined agony of Marshall, who has in his mind (for us a projected series of wonderful images) the woman he did not save; the woman who chose not to leave her mother. On film, Amy Enticknap presents an entire character in a few sequences. The same might be said for Kyran Pritchard as the Gestapo officer - just a little bit concerned that Wallenberg might hunt him down after the war for deporting Swedish citizens; for Hester Lott as the grandmother whose love Wallenberg cannot forget; Michael Curran, as the bewildered passport forger and Alex Babic as the sinister, calculating Russian interrogator, who simply does not believe that his quarry is not a spy. This performance, among many, was masterful.
In such a depressing story what hope is there? What is there to uplift or feel positive about? Wallenberg is shown in Comfort's play to always maintain that love for others, despite all his pitiless adversaries. This is what convinces us a single man can make a difference. This is why you should go and see the play if you are able to. A hopeless situation is ennobled by a determined individual. Within each one of us lies that potential.
Gwilly (Unverified), 29/06/12
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