Left - Craig Williams, Vivienne Garrett and Brendan Hanson. Photo - Belinda Dunbar
Israel Horovitz’s play centres around a fictional invitation extended by modern day German Chancellor Rudolph Stroiber to six million Jews to relocate to Germany as an attempt to make a symbolic restitution for the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. With such a weighty and sensitive topic, Lebensraum could easily have been an exercise in polemics but thanks to Horovitz’s scripting genius, humour and the ability of the three actors, Vivienne Garrett, Brendan Hanson and Craig Williams, to jump seamlessly from one character to the next and keep the storyline moving, Lebensraum is a mesmerising and thought-provoking exploration of history, love, economics, revenge and forgiveness.
The intimate downstairs area at His Majesty’s was an ideal location as it allowed the audience to connect with the actors and feel the emotion. The simplicity of the set – the only props were a piano, some tables, an armchair and a hat stand – meant the actors were free to conjure distinct characters and settings using little more than an adjustment of clothing, voice and posture.
Lebensraum had a number of intersecting storylines and Garrett, Hanson and Williams played the parts of over 40 characters with remarkable ease, switching from the Linskys, a working-class Massachussets family, to an elderly Israeli couple to rabbi to German teenage girl. Williams had the strongest ability to mimic accents and his portrayal of an elderly Holocaust survivor was truly poignant. NIDA graduate and veteran of Perth theatre, Garrett, was a pleasure to watch and Hanson demonstrated an incredible range and depth of performance. Each character portrayed has a different reaction to Stroiber’s invitation but thankfully Horovitz doesn’t fall back on simple answers or a definitive solution.
Lebensraum was surprisingly funny – particularly the gay French couple and the teenage interaction of Sammy Linsky and his German girlfriend – but it was still essentially a serious play. Although it centred on the Holocaust and the repercussions still felt from this atrocity, the ethical questions Lebensraum raised are universal. In a nation that continues to struggle with our culpability for the massive social problems faced by Indigenous Australians, the question of how responsible we are for the sins of our fathers is a particularly pertinent one.
The Brainbox Project presents
by Israel Horovitz
Directed and Designed by Lawrie Cullen-Tait
Venue: DownStairs at the Maj | His Majesty’s Theatre, 825 Hay St, Perth
Dates: Thursday 18 - Wednesday 31 March 2010
Bookings: BOCS Ticketing 9484 1133 | bocsticketing.com.au | in person