Holocaust play The Suitcase a remarkable piece of theatre
AS SEAN O'Hare said during the after-show conversation, it wasn't really acting because the story got into the marrow of your bones. Certainly The Suitcase is a story well told except it's not a story – the harrowing individual experiences of the Holocaust are real.
We were, quite literally, watching three pools of light; in one a mother and daughter discover the secrets in an old man's suitcase, in another the old man himself looks back to the days when he met a young woman in a concentration camp and, highlighted on a raised stage is the women herself, a dancer beginning her career when the soldiers came and everything changed.
She speaks of chilling happenings around her, people being thrown off balconies, pets being snatched away, beheadings, Berlin on fire, families torn apart and concentration camps.
“Suddenly,” she says, “it feels that our happy lives are being stripped away.”
Mother and daughter (Mary Moulds and Rosie Barry) find the suitcase in the grandfather's room after he dies; they are looking through his letters and photographs as we settle into our seats in the Belfast Synagogue.
The grandfather (O'Hare) sits alone to one side of the stage and the letters come to life as he reminisces; he talks of playing the violin as a girl dances during a concert for the officers in Terezin camp. He admits he fell in love with her and ended up finding her suitcase and bringing it home. The girl (Hannah Coyle) had disappeared; he never saw her again.
The sad thing is these stories are reflected in our own Troubles and with the plight of Syrian refugees trying to escape their own holocaust. Nothing is new.
Jane Coyle has written a remarkable piece of theatre and this play deserves to travel, especially to schools and colleges. It's a complex production and producer Ciara McCafferty and director Elise McNicholas have an enthusiastic team around them. But a special word about Rachel Cullen, the sound designer – she has engineered a soundscape which is both emotional and at times chilling.
:: Until October 14. See belfastinternationalartsfestival.com/event/the-suitcase.