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Theatre Review: The Project, White Bear Theatre, London

Ian Buckley's play is a gripping Holocaust drama

SET in Westerbork transit camp for Dutch Jews in Holland in 1943, Ian Buckley’s The Project tells the story of four cabaret artists and their relationships, both with each other and their nazi camp commandant.

Much of the play’s factually based background relates to how, one day a week, 1,000 inmates were transported by rail to a destination in the east such as Auschwitz or Sobibor. Most feared what lay in store for them.

The cabaret artists stayed longer than the majority  — their usefulness delaying but not putting off the fateful transport day. Their agency was limited and illusory in a world of fear and half-hopes.

If Anna sees the commandant’s invite for her to dance for him as a way to get her mother off the list, it is merely a temporary victory, while Peter’s escape brings collective punishment on all their heads.

MC Victor believes he’s made himself indispensable by creating a cabaret for Obersturmfuhrer Schaffer but he soon learns that no Jew is indispensable in the world view of committed nazis.

So they sing, dance and joke in what's a tribute both to their art and spirit and this excellent multi-talented cast brings the Westerbork cabaret alive under Anthony Shrubsall's direction. 

Faye Maughan, Eloise Jones, Lloyd Morris and Nick Delvalle sing the original songs beautifully and the group’s infectious energy drives the play along. The scenes between Mike Duran’s Schaffer and Anna (Maughan) crackle with tension, while Cate Morris’s Ette, mother of Anna, is both ridiculous and noble.

A must-see.

Runs until March 23, box office: whitebeartheatre.co.uk.

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