The White Factory
by Dmitry Glukhovsky
director Maxim Didenko
with Mark Quartley, Pearl Chanda, Adrian Schiller, James Garnon, Matthew Spencer, Olivia Bernstone, Lewis Hart, Rachel Barry, Cameron McColm, Lucas Allermann, Paul-Hector Antoine, Leo Franky, Aron Yacobi
sets & costumes Galya Solodovnikova • music Louis Lebee
lighting Alex Musgrave • sound Julian Starr
Marylebone Theatre • 14.Sep-4.Nov.23
In 1939 Łódź, Jewish atheists Yosef and Rivka Kaufman (Quartley and Chanda) live with their two young sons and Rivka's disabled father (Schiller), and none of them take the rising tide of Polish racism seriously. Even when Nazis turn up and force Jews into a ghetto, they expect the best. Orphanage director Chaim Rumkowski (also Schiller) is appointed leader, setting out to make the Jews indispensable through manufacturing, turning the Catholic church into a "white factory" making pillows. But Nazi boss Koppe (Garnon) is creating a death machine, demanding that Rumkowski hand over Jews for deportation. In 1942, he is ordered to send 20,000 children and elderly, and he begs the ghetto to cooperate to save as many lives as possible.
All of this may be very familiar, often dramatised on stage and screen. But it's given a new slant with clever touches that fill the abstract stage, which is cube-shaped like a TV screen. Onto this, live video is projected documenting scenes period style with striking closeups, plus some lively storytelling sequences with eye-catching special effects (although an audio delay makes this awkward to watch). The earthy, naturalistic acting adds a beautiful counterpoint, as does the way this cube splinters and shifts, dirtied with blood and ash.
“Wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, we must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” —Elie Wiesel