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Rosenbaum’s Rescue at Park Theatre | Review

Neil McCaul in Rosenbaum's Rescue at Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet.
Neil McCaul in Rosenbaum’s Rescue at Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet.

Rosenbaum’s Rescue is a remarkable first play by A. Bodin Saphir, author in residence at Great Ormond Street Hospital, about the escape from Denmark to Sweden of over 7,000 Jews in 1943.

A. Bodin Saphir has the rare gift of being able to write believable, amusing dialogue and of gradually being able to unfold the different character traits of each of his four protagonists: the first scene of Act One in particular, speeds along, with many genuinely funny exchanges, before the playwright approaches the more serious matters the play deals with later.

David Bamber is the embodiment of Abraham, a Danish Jew: like other members of the cast his performance has tremendous energy as he tries to come to terms with the events of the evening’s get together with his friend, historical author Lars, played by Neil McCaul, who is very believable in his search for the truth about the Jews escape from Denmark, even if much pain is caused in the process.

Julia Swift, as Abraham’s wife Sara, spends most of the play trying to ‘keep the peace’ between the two men; her acting appears effortless and she is totally convincing: the playwright has given her some exceedingly witty lines at times and they are always timed to perfection.

Lars’ German daughter( Dorothea Myer-Bennett) manages to keep cheerful throughout the proceedings, and for much of the play is the dominant character on stage, driving the play forward to it denouement with commitment.

The success of this premiere staging of this work is in no small way due to the imaginative direction by Kate Fahy, who, realising that the play is inclined to be ‘wordy’, has ensured that the pace rarely flags and that the performance space is well used.

The composite set – living room and kitchen in a modern Danish house – has been inventively designed by William Fricker, ensuring that both actors and director find the space easy to use. Lighting design (Emma Chapman) includes a candle-lit scene in Act Two, when the power fails in a snowstorm, and is totally believable.

I am not sure that I know any more than I did about this period in Danish/Jewish history, but I did leave the theatre wanting to know more. All in all a successful first play by A Bodin Saphir – I look forward to seeing his second play!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

October, 1943. Seven and a half thousand Jews flee Denmark in fishermen’s boats, crossing the water to Sweden and to safety from the occupying Nazi regime. To some, a miracle rescue of biblical proportions. To others, the question remains: how did thousands of Jews slip through the grasp of the most powerful war machine ever assembled?

Hanukkah, 2001. At a remote home on the snowy Danish coast, it’s time for two old friends to bury the hatchet. Lars and Abraham have not seen eye to eye for decades, but old tensions refuse to thaw as Lars’ relentless pursuit of the truth concerning the flight of Danish Jews during WWII challenges Abraham’s faith, patience and memories. And when an old secret surfaces and threatens the very foundation of their relationship, fact starts to blur with fiction.

Olivier Award-winner David Bamber plays Abraham alongside Neil McCaul (The Other Place, Park Theatre) as Lars. Dorothea Myer-Bennett (Holy Sh*t, Kiln Theatre) and Julia Swift (Philadelphia Here I Come, Donmar Warehouse) complete the cast. Moving and funny, this sharp and intriguing new play unravels the stories of two childhood friends and one of history’s most compelling mysteries.

Park Theatre and Breaking Productions present the World Premiere of
Rosenbaum’s Rescue
By A. Bodin Saphir

Directed by Kate Fahy
Production supported by Park Theatre’s Producers’ Circle
Cast: David Bamber, Neil McCaul, Dorothea Myer-Bennett & Julia Swift

PARK200
Time2 hrs 15 mins inc. interval
Age 14+
Plays: 9 Jan – 9 Feb 2019

Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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