Who Will Carry the Word?
Based on the writings of Charlotte Delbo
Roberts Pryce & Co | Theatre Company
The Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton
No matter how many books you read or plays and films you watch about the atrocities that occurred in Auschwitz and the other concentration camps during World War II, it never ceases to shock. On the one hand it depicts mankind at its absolute weakest and depraved and simultaneously demonstrates the strength and kindness of the human spirit.
Whilst the barbarity of World War II is far behind us, across the world similar senseless acts of violence against mankind continue to take place. This is the reasoning behind plays such as Who Will Carry the Word?: by making the personal the political, these issues are bought to the forefront of our minds and cannot be ignored.
Based on the true account of Charlotte Delbo who was part of the French Resistance and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942, Who Will Carry the Word? tells the story of a group of female prisoners who befriend each other and struggle to survive in horrific circumstances.
The truth is brutal and painful to hear and a script such as this could only be based on the writings of someone who has experienced such torture first hand. This stripped back performance under the superb direction of Natasha Pryce allows the stories - the words - to literally speak for themselves.
The all female, multi-cultural cast are vulnerable, raw and exposed in their sensitive handling of the subject matter. Avoiding the temptation to completely breakdown on stage, they portray the strength, courage and solidarity of these women who often didn't even know each other's names. As they deal with starvation, humiliation, family dying, babies being dowsed in petrol and then set alight and watching as rats chew at body parts of their friends who are too crippled with illness to move; they miraculously soldier on. Of course we know these stories already from previous memoirs of other courageous survivors but, as I said, it never ceases to shock.
The excellent Esin Harvey as Françoise steps out to address the audience, explaining what we cannot see and will probably (hopefully) never fully understand. The cast move as a whole, as they shiver and shudder, rub themselves and each other to keep warm and shield themselves from attack. However, Who Will Carry the Word? is not just a story of tragic despair; it is a story of bravery and sacrifice. The women individually share their hopes and dreams as a way of escaping from the horror that is their life and it is these acts of courage that are the most painful to watch.
Delbo felt a moral obligation to raise the "past from its ashes to carry the world", in order to prevent the world from letting this happen again. This production is a testament to her will and whilst often painful to watch we owe it to these women to listen to the stories that many of them never got the chance to tell.
Until 5th July
Reviewer: Rachel Sheridan