A Bodin Saphir
Park Theatre and Breaking Productions
Park Theatre 200
The date displayed prominently in the opening scene of Alexander Bodin Saphir’s play Rosenbaum's Rescue set in a Danish home reads 14 December 2001.
The characters Abraham (David Bamber) and Sara (Julia Swift) are expecting the arrival of Lars (Neil McCaul) and his daughter Eva (Dorothea Myer-Bennett).
Abe recalls Lars's rudeness and wonders why they are bothering to have him round. But they knew each other at the age of eight when Lars's father helped Abe’s Jewish family escape Denmark during the Second World War, and that counts for something.
The news briefly playing on the radio reminds us of the way President Bush is responding to 9/11 and that a new right wing government with its harsher approach to migrants has formed in Denmark with the support of the far right Danish People's Party. Later, another radio broadcast refers to the Danish contribution to the invasion of Afghanistan.
Lars is an academic researching the rescue of almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark during the German occupation and he thinks that Abe’s memories might be useful.
As they talk, tensions appear not only about those historical events with Abe arguing it was a result of heroic Danish resistance and God, against Lars's belief there was German complicity, but also about how they might apply the lessons of the past to contemporary events with Eva arguing, “Muslims are the new Jews.”
When a blizzard strands them longer than they intended, various family secrets begin to emerge, including Eva’s choice of sexual partner.
Although the play’s central subject is the discussion of the Jewish rescue, which always held my attention, its real strength is the confident, engaging performance of a fine cast and the fractious humour between the characters, in particular Lars and Abe.
The nuts and bots of the plot are however obvious and occasionally contrived. The revelation about Eva’s sexual partner can even seem like a disconnected insert to provide an interlude of humour.
All the same, audiences will be entertained by the humorous banter and intrigued by the remarkable rescue of Jewish people from occupied Denmark which has such important implications for us at a time of growing racism and xenophobia.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna