Amsterdam

3
Thu, 12th Sep 19
Maya Arad Yasur's play seen at the Orange Tree Theatre

Amsterdam by Maya Arad Yasur brings together four characters performed by Daniel Abelson, Fiston Barek, Michal Horowitz and Hara Yannas in what appears to be an improvised dialogue between the cast members. However, it is a tightly scripted play told using freestyle storytelling as it switches between historical themes explaining the events that took place in Germany during WWII and then bringing you back to present day in an instant.

The main theme of the play focuses around an Israeli violinist who is heavily pregnant and living in a highly desirable canal-side apartment in Amsterdam in 2019.

When a gas bill is put under her door in 2019 for €1,700 dated back to 1944 questions start to be asked as to who ran up such a high bill and why? The gas bill itself didn't ring true to me as beyond anything else the currency has changed since 1944 in Amsterdam, the audience suspending their disbelief is certainly heavily relied on!

As the plot develops the cast attach a metal curtain divide across the stage. For me, it represented the German Wall built between East and West after WWII. Although the "Iron Curtain " was referred to for the Soviet Union! I can only assume it is the symbolism of a wall rather than accuracy.

The cast of four weaves through the historical timeline with ease at times appearing to gloss over horrendous events that have taken place during that period of history only to backtrack and repeat themselves to highlight the importance. Genocide is one example used that should not be forgotten and they took a pause to reflect this.

The audience is told through the narrative reasons why people were sent to Auschwitz, although through their dialogue you are informed of obscene and unjustified reasoning from "having a Jewish sounding name" to "those with skin conditions" in addition to the well-documented reasons many of us already know.

At some points during the performance, it wasn't always clear if you were back in 1944 or in present-day 2019. The level of suspicion about what characters thought of each other as they went about their daily lives in the present was reminiscent of how people possibly viewed each other during the war, making assumptions about who they were and what they did.

Artistic director Matthew Xia's debut production for Acting Touring Company has directed well through the dense and sometimes unclear plot of Amsterdam which offers a thought-provoking series of narratives. He was dealing with many difficult themes all at once sympathetically in bringing this play to the stage.

Elaine Chapman


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