The Diary of Petr Ginz

Review: England´s Shrewsbury School

Written by Wendy Wrangham

The Diary of Petr Ginz

England´s Shrewsbury School have dived into the deep end with their first foray into Fringe territory by performing a Prague story with all the pitfalls of pronunciation and pre-existing knowledge that brings. The large cast however carries the weight of history well, but with a story as evocative as this, you should be hard pressed to fail.

In 2003, the shuttle Discovery disintegrated on re-entry into the earth´s atmosphere and another name hit the news in addition to the seven astronauts on board: Petr Ginz. A copy of an image drawn by Ginz depicting his vision of earth from the moon had been carried on board by Colonel Ilan Ramon and as the news broke around the world, a memory was nudged and Ginz´s diary was discovered in a Prague attic and later published. In 1942 Ginz turned 14 years old, the age of consent as it were for the Nazi transports. He died in an Auschwitz gas chamber two years later.

The diary (1941-42) recalls Ginz forever exploring, inventing, painting, writing but above all, creating and continuing to live free despite the growing terror and the shadow of the strident Nazi Youth, who take playground jousting to the max. On the day the assassinated body of Heydrich is taken to Berlin for burial, Ginz proudly writes of his A- in German. The family celebrates birthdays and sings and dances until portable instruments are banned for Jews. Ginz and his friends all become “sheriffs” overnight. There is nothing new as such, we know how persecuted peoples continue for as normal and as long as possible in the face of growing uncertainty, but Ginz´s age and his unbounded thirst for knowledge and adult musings on the world adds huge poignancy to the albeit too fragmented episodes on stage.

The actors produce commendable performances although the numerous scene changes do result in some stilted interaction. Teacher, writer and director, Alex Went has on occasion exhorted his charges for additional pathos (Ginz´s father intoning that they may need a torch “in these [pregnant pause] dark times”) when it is all there anyway. Sometimes the actors seems to be kids acting kids as adults see them, but any static or overly earnest deliveries can also be ascribed to nerves: this was the play´s premiere. The upbeat musical number based on a poem by Ginz is particularly, and ironically, strong and the display as well as elicitation of emotion from the actors at the end is impressive. Actually, impressive is what this emotional, intelligent and educational play is as a whole.

Tue-Thu at 6pm, Divadlo Na Prádle
In English

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