Theatre Review: Our Class

Posted on: 13 October 2009 by Mark O'haire

Laurence Green reviews Polish playwright Tadeusz Slobodzianek’s new play Our Class at the NT’s Cottesloe auditorium.

Guilt and responsibility and friendship and betrayal are the issues that are explored by Polish playwright Tadeusz Slobodzianek in his new play Our Class (NT’s Cottesloe auditorium), in a version by Ryan Craig.

A group of schoolchildren, Jewish and Catholic, declare their ambitions: one to be a fireman, one a film star, one a pilot, and another a doctor. They are learning the ABC. This is Poland, 1925. As the children grow up, their country is torn apart by invading armies, first Soviet and then Nazi. Internal grievances deepen as fervent nationalism develops and anti-Semitism becomes all pervasive. Friends betray each other and violence escalates. Until these ordinary people carry out an extraordinary and monstrous act - the massacre of 1,600 Jews – that darkly resonates to this day.

Slobodzianek here confronts his country’s involvement in the atrocities of the last century and follows the one-time classmates – amidst the weddings, parades, births, deaths, emigrations and reconciliations – into the next. Indeed this is a play in which the ghosts of the past come to haunt the present and refuse to go away.

Performed on a bare rectangular stage, save for two rows of chairs, with the actors recounting and re-enacting events almost in the style of a dramatised confessional, the play loses none of its power by being presented in such a minimalistic way.

Director Bijan Sheibani draws excellent performances from the splendid NT ensemble, in particular Jason Watkins, Amanda Hale, Michael Gould, Lee Ingleby and Paul Hickey as the principles. A further word of praise must be given to the small accompanying band whose haunting musical accompaniment perfectly matches the mood of the piece.

A truly moving and thought provoking evening in the theatre.

Where: NT’s Cottesloe auditorium

When: Continues in repertory until 12 January 2010

Box Office: Call 020 7452 3000 or book your tickets online by clicking here.

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