‘What Belongs to You’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by July 23, 2017

‘What Belongs to You’ is a beautifully written and structured story by WA playwright, Richard Maker. The storylines are well researched, and presented with a natural flow; the audience did not feel as though they were receiving an historical lecture. The dialogue was superbly written, with each actor having their own style of words and personality in their script.

This moving play genuinely presented the tale that has been told so many times before, with a new angle, one that closely focused on a single family, and the personal horrors they faced. By not over sentimentalising the play, it is much stronger, and yet it still stirs a genuine feeling of ‘being family’ in the audience. Tremendous writing.

The Stirling Players have done a ‘sterling’ job, top Marks (no pfennigs). This two-and-a-half-hour production can be seen at the Stirling Theatre, Morris Place, Innaloo each Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening at 8.00, until the 5th August. There are two Sunday matinées, each at 2.00 on the 23rd and 30th July.

 

It is November 1938, months before World War 2, in an upstairs flat in the Friedrichstrasse, Berlin.

The main set is of a reasonably wealthy sitting room. The walls are cream, and the rear wall has a large window, with white netting and green curtains. A good solid set, designed by Jane Sherwood. The furnishings – all accurate for the late 40s period – comprised a claw and ball oak table and chairs, a genuine cup-board – a dresser with hanging cups and crowned with a Hanukkah menorah. There were two comfortable chairs and an upright piano.

There were other minor office scenes on the stage apron, but even here, the props designer, Carryn McLean had added fine detail, such as a photo of King George Vl.

The wardrobe team of Fran Gordon and Alyssa Vincent, has produced some wonderful clothing, such as a genuine, wartime tweed coat, German uniforms, and again finer touches like Esther’s stocking with seams.

The subtle sound was designed by Danni Close and operated by Ian Wilson. Jane Sherwood was assisted in the lighting design by John Woolrych and Ian Wilson. The whole tech team produced a most realistic fire scene.

        It is Kristallnacht, and the pogrom against the Jews, homosexuals, Communists and Jehovah Witnesses has begun in Germany. Esther (Danni Close) and Joseph Aaronson (Lachlan Stewart), a loving couple in their late thirties are sitting at home. Young Christl (Lakesha Motbey alternating with Bella Freeman) is lying on the carpet studying for school. Her 15 yrs. old sister, Leah (Taylah Marie) has not returned from a night out with her friends. The couple are concerned, as they have noticed an increase in anti-Semitic attitudes, but Joseph is not too worried, as he is a World War 1 hero and has been promised immunity from any problems. Esther does not share his confidence.

       Nearby, the Jewish Council is holding a secret meeting. Solicitor, Benjamin Kauffman (Ron Arthurs) is determined to take his complaints to the local German Government official, Müller (Peter Neaves). Thankfully, his more logical thinking Council members, Emile (Dan Finn) and Judah (Sam Rodwell) have seen through Müller’s fake smile and stop him.

       Esther seeks help from a British Consul-General, Robert Smallbones (Byron Lamont), but when faced with two Nazi officials and an unyielding, internment camp official (Carryn McLean) the situation looks hopeless.

The Director, Richard Maker, was assisted by award winning director, Jane Sherwood. The actors were well rehearsed, line-perfect and moved well, but at times that certain desperation or bitterness was lacking. I am sure the readers will have heard me say on many occasions that writers should never direct. Richard’s script was brilliant, his directing skills unquestionable, but like Esther in the story he would have been wise to give up his baby, and on this instance, trust all of the direction to his most capable assistant.

The Aaronson Family members were superb in their desperation. Müller was perfect as the disturbing, deceptive official.

Even on a very wet and miserable Sunday afternoon this play had almost a full house, and so booking would be advisable. The numbed audience, who would normally ‘whoop’ at the curtain call of such a good show, clapped long and politely. The story was so well written, it was obvious that it had resonated with them and that they had been deeply affected by the production. Excellent, congrats to the cast and writer.