Dates and Venue 3 June - 26 June 2011, Thurs – Sun 8 pm | Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery
Director Victor Vasuta Lighting Design Graham Ockley Set and Costume Design Oleksandra Lykova Sound Design Doug Johnson Stage Manager Craig Veenhof
Reviewers Cassie Silva & Greg Ewan
When one thinks about the Holocaust, one brings to mind concentration camps, marching Nazi soldiers, and Jewish people hiding from the Gestapo. When we think about the “enemy” we prefer to envision a faceless stranger marching into town and taking out his aggression on innocent strangers. But what if the so-called “enemy” you are in danger from are the people you have been living with your entire life and calling your closest friends and neighbours?
Our Class is not your typical
story about the Holocaust. For one thing, it takes place in a small
town in Poland, and outlines the problems the Soviets, Poles, and Jews
had long before Nazi soldiers came to town. In fact, the role the Germans
play in this production is minimal - instead, we see how anti-Semitism
and mistrust paved the way for WWII.
Our Class is directed by Victor Vasuta, who
interviewed Holocaust survivors to prepare for this production. I don’t
want to pinpoint which characters turned “bad” and which
ones stayed “good” because I think it is best for audience
members to go in with no preconceived notions of good and bad and no
favoritism. No one can judge the choices the characters make until they
see the circumstances that bring them to that point. Let me say though
that all 10 cast members brought an exceptional amount of life and emotion
to their roles - an amount of dedication and emotion that no doubt affected
the actors themselves outside of their roles.
The staging was simple yet effective, and the lighting and sound effects and live songs added to the drama.
Our Class is worth seeing, especially for the opportunity to challenge your preconceived notions of right and wrong. Director Victor Vasuta says “This is also a story about the magnitude of the long-term consequences (that the choices we make) have for the whole of humankind, in fact helping to define who we are today.”
© 2011 Cassie Silva
Set in Poland, during the Soviet and subsequent Nazi occupations, the 10 actors in Our Class take you on an emotionally wrenching journey through their characters shattered lives.
At first, life was simple and enjoyable; the children playfully engaged each other in simple games and joined one another in raucous song. However, even then, the seeds of discord were evident. Then one of the children, Abram, was suddenly whisked away to America, where he spent the remainder of the show.
As the children grew, tension between their respective faiths effectively drove a wedge between them. Neither side, Christian nor Jew, was able to claim absolution in the matter. Each side took turns oppressing the other in one way or another, alternating between occupying regimes.
As the show progressed, hatred and intolerance danced together hand in hand - culminating in a horrific crescendo of violence. The rest of the play detailed the aftermath; how each surviving character dealt with his or her role in everything that had happened.
Throughout the first half, I found myself quite unsettled by the graphic detail and imagery that was evoked. I found myself wondering just how seemingly good people could do such terrible things to people they once considered friends.
Two characters heighten our perception of the disparity…and the insanity… that beset those left behind in Poland. One, Abram, is a constant source of objective questioning, as he seeks to understand the how and why behind it all. The other, Wladek, is the only one of the Polish Christians that appears to maintain a conscience, and for the most part, serves as the conscience of the play until the very end.
The characters are interwoven in an engaging fashion, allowing each actor to shine in powerfully scripted scenes. The emotional strain on them, and the audience, is obvious. Throughout the production, people around me we reacted to the unfolding drama before them, flinching at sudden noises, gasping or turning away from at the horror that was never too far beneath the surface…or laughing during the few moments of unexpected mirth.
Those moments were