East of Berlin

1/5

'East of Berlin'

2/5

'East of Berlin'

3/5

'East of Berlin'

4/5

'East of Berlin'

5/5

'East of Berlin'

Philip Larkin’s famous line ‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad…’ may never have been more demonstrably true than in rising Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch’s new play. In ‘East of Berlin’, a family’s past returns to devastate the life of young Rudi, as he struggles to deal with the fact that his father was a Nazi.

And not just any old Nazi: Vati was a scientist who conducted some particularly nasty experiments on Jews in concentration camps. Rudi’s childhood was spent in Paraguay with his parents, along with other ex-pat war criminals who were lying low and keeping their kids in the dark about the war. Moscovitch’s play is Rudi’s story, which he narrates sitting outside his father’s study. We hear how he discovered the grotesque family secret at the age of 17, left for Germany and returned to Paraguay ready to confront his family seven years later.

It’s a smart script from Moscovitch, who keeps her characters nicely contrasting, their dialogue light and real. Jordan McCurrach is excellent as Rudi, playing him with an angry energy that bubbles beneath the surface. He’s a soul driven by the need to punish his father and by the palpable burden of guilt he feels for his family’s actions. Tom Lincoln as Rudi’s friend Hermann is also good: self-contained, taut and wry, he deals with a similar situation in a very different way.

Blythe Stewart’s production has boxes, old books and photographs stacked on wheeled shelves and moved around in scene changes. It’s an exceptionally fluid show that maintains a commanding rhythm. The writing is generally strong, but the play lacks the breadth of interrogation needed for the huge, hefty subject of war guilt. Rudi’s experience is highly personal: telling his story alone means the great ocean of the play’s themes is explored only from the shallows.

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