PREVIEW BY LACHLAN JOBBINS
‘Faced with personal risk, how far would you go to save a life’ Would you prefer to ‘not get involved” Would you follow orders and look the other way”
These are the questions behind David Wiltse’s The Good German, showing at the Seymour Centre from April 29 to May 24. Produced by Black Pearl Theatre Company and directed by Sheryl Sciro, the play stars veteran actors Ivar Kants, Linden Wilkinson and Mark Lee, and marks the Australian debut of Frank van Putten.
Set during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, it’s about a woman and her husband who hide a Jewish friend from authorities. As the story progresses, their friendships, loyalties and moral values are put to the test. But the play is not a simple case of good versus evil, or of innocent people swept up in horrific events.
According to Ivar Kants, ‘It’s also about generalised stereotypes of human beings, and how politicians use hate and division. It’s confronting because it’s not simple, not black and white. The characters are not music hall villains. It’s more challenging and ultimately more frightening because of that.’
The play was first performed in 2003 at Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s Westport Country Playhouse, where Wiltse is writer-in-residence. Despite being set in a particularly dark period of history, its message is just as relevant today.
‘For someone who knows nothing about the Holocaust or the Nazi era, it’s a great play to see. It’s realistic, it’s complex, and they’ll leave having had a condensed, intense lesson’, says Kants. The Good German is a reminder of ‘how dangerous it is for us to forget our common humanity. And to resist authority that tries to exploit division and hatred of any kind.’
The play also has deeply personal resonance for co-producer and Dutch-born actor Frank van Putten, whose mother Anneke was a member of the Dutch Resistance during the German occupation. After refusing to sign a loyalty oath to Hitler following the invasion of the Netherlands, she was expelled from her university and spent the remaining war years searching for safe houses for Jews to hide in. This production is dedicated to her memory.
The Good German by David Wiltse
Until May 24
Seymour Centre Downstairs Theatre
Cnr City Rd and Cleveland Sts, Chippendale
Bookings: 9351 7940 or www.seymour.usyd.edu.au