Published: 22 March, 2012
by JOSH LOEB
There is hardly a dearth of plays that touch on the subject of the Holocaust.
By far the least interesting are those that take it as their mission to raise awareness of what happened to the Jews during the war.
Such plays are relatively uninteresting because there is, surely, scarcely a soul who is not now aware of what horrors took place, and no matter how often you watch depictions of mass murders, it is hard to comprehend or interpret them.
More worthwhile are works like this, ones that take a subtler approach.
In fact, it might be fairer to categorise Restitution not as a play about the Holocaust but as one about memory and the human psyche.
The clever two-hander, beautifully written by up-and-coming playwright Emily Juniper, follows Robert (Alastair Kirton), the son of a Holocaust survivor, on the last leg of a quest that has driven him to near obsession.
In a gallery in a small town in Germany is a painting that once hung in the home Robert’s late mother was forced to flee in traumatic circumstances as a child.
The work was stolen by the SS and is, Robert declares to gallery owner Berta (Chloe Gilgallon), his rightful inheritance which he intends to take back.
But how to deal with Berta’s plea for it to remain on display and not to be turned into a symbol of a personal story, however tragic?
And, more to the point, will reclaiming it actually amount to the sort of resolution Robert craves?
Produced by Ugly Sister Productions, the play is minutes long, and with both the actors and the dialogue grasping the attention of the audience, there is no possible cause for clock-watching.
The study of history is really the study of psychology on a grand scale, and Freudian defence mechanisms, in particular repetition compulsion, are evident.
A messy state of affairs, but the better playwrights have the wisdom not to lecture but to play the role of shrinks – a complex task which Juniper proves herself equal to.
UNTIL APRIL 1
020 7478 0160