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Thursday, September 27, 2012


(Review of the production at the 2012 Witness Hilton Art Festival by Margaret von Klemperer, courtesy of The Witness) 

Berlin 1945. The Russians are coming (and the Hilton weather on Saturday afternoon was doing its bit for rumbling, banging sound effects). An SS officer (James Cairns, who also wrote the piece) has picked up a young actress (Taryn Bennett) whose father has managed to escape to the Americans, coming in from the West. The officer was once a theatre critic, and he hopes he can use this link with his captive to persuade her to tell him how her father got out, information she obviously has, and therefore how he, and she, can do likewise. (The title translates as She Knows Everything.) 

Having explained to her that, unless they can do something to help themselves, he faces certain death as a member of Hitler’s notorious elite, even though he was just a pen-pusher, and she faces equally certain rape, they play a game rehashing Hamlet’s scene with Ophelia where he famously tells her: “Get thee to a  nunnery.” It is a scene which also contains the line: “Where is your father?” and as they work through the possibilities of Shakespeare’s script, it begins to take on first a sense of menace, and then one of hope.  

The idea is good, and there is a leavening of humour, but I did feel that the middle section, where Hamlet and Ophelia were being worked over and over, would have been better for some tighter direction. Once or twice I began to wish that the Russians would get a move on. But that aside, Cairns and Bennett both deliver fine performances in what is an interesting work. - Margaret von Klemperer