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The White Factory at Marylebone Theatre | Review

The White Factory is not only a play about the holocaust, but also a play about how we are corrupted by circumstances. This new play by Dmitry Glukhovsky, directed by Maxim Didenko, is a flawed testament to life in the Łodz ghetto.

Mark Quartley and Olivia Bernstone - The White Factory - Photo Credit Mark Senior.
Mark Quartley and Olivia Bernstone – The White Factory – Photo Credit Mark Senior.

Yosef Kaufman (Mark Quartley) is a family man, a lawyer, and a Jew, he lives in Łodz, objects strongly to growing antisemitic rhetoric but will do anything to protect his family. As ghettoization proceeds, his work disappears, forcing him to clean sewers, but works hard in the name of putting food on the table for his children. Kaufman despises the men who joined the Ghetto police. Meanwhile, Chaim Rumkowski (Adrian Schiller) is appointed as the Elder of the Jewish population by the Nazis and becomes part of their enslavement and eventual deportation to the camps. Both feel as though they are doing what they can to get through it.

That brings about the central conflict of the piece, how far would you go to protect what is important to you? Both Kaufman and Rumkowski are cast in a harsh light by Glukhovsky and Maxim Didenko (Director), criticizing their sacrifices throughout the vast majority of the play. While there are some moments of nuance, the play is pretty unwaveringly critical of the two’s moral sacrifices. I am not defending what either of them did, but I have strong reservations about making moral judgments about choices made in unimaginable circumstances. Perhaps I am wrong, and this play is charging the audience with another possibility: that it is dangerous for us to make moral conclusions about what we would do. I am not sure.

Aside from that the design is brilliant, a slick and all-white moving set offers a sterile environment where ideas are dissected and pulled apart. Galya Solodovnikova’s design provides a provocative environment for some excellent performances. Holding the stage with conviction, depth, and complexity was Adrian Schiller playing both Kaufman’s father-in-law and Chaim Rumkowski, while Quartley commits wholeheartedly to his morale downfall, showing it with gradual and believable development.

This play is at times immensely moving. I watch it, as a young Jewish person knowing that previous generations of my family went through similar experiences. There are immensely powerful and challenging moments, as there often are with pieces discussing the Holocaust. Whether the compelling elements of the play are compelling due to content matter or the play, I remain unsure.

To wrap things up, the play is a mixed bag. While the weight of the emotional beats of the play is undeniable, the lack of nuance and occasional over-simplification let down what could have been a very strong play.

3 Star Review

Review by Tom Carter

Spanning several decades, The White Factory explores the life of Yosef Kaufman, a Holocaust survivor from Lodz, haunted by his wartime experiences as he tries to build a new future in 1960s Brooklyn.

‍This heart-wrenching drama of love, endurance, despair, and hope follows one man’s journey from the Lodz ghetto of 1940s Poland to ‘sixties America, where the possibility of a new life is tested to the limit by the remnants of his past.

Paul-Hector Antoine
Lucas Allermann
Olivia Bernstone
Pearl Chanda
Leo Franky
James Garnon
Lewis Hart
Mark Quartley
Adrian Schiller
Matthew Spencer
Aron Yacobi
Rachel Barry
Cameron McColm

Ekaterina Kashyntseva & Oliver King for Belka Productions present
Written by Dmitry Glukhovsky
Directed by Maxim Didenko

The White Factory
14 SEP – 4 NOV 2023

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