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Ghetto: The Irene Sendler Story. Class Act Productions. Cleethorpes Parkway 13 February 2020

Updated: Apr 8, 2023

David Wrightam has written many memorable plays, but I very much doubt he will better this. This true story is based on the young nurse Irena Sendler, who rescued over 2,500 children from the Warsaw ghetto. So masterful was Wrightam’s script, that there were times when the entire audience almost stopped breathing as this brutal but compelling story unfolded. Don’t be put off by the subject matter because this is not a play that sets out to shock or offend. It is a true account of a time when humanity itself tripped and fell, but a few sparks of hope by some very brave people kept it alive. It is so hard to pick out solo performances, such was the quality of the play, but some were just outstanding.

Katie Leonard as Irena Sendler was a tour de force. From the very first scene to the very last, her performance was remarkable. Her scenes with Herr Muller, played with chilling accuracy by Dec Harris produced a rare silence from the audience. Harris’s pauses and glances added volumes to the script. Inside the ghetto we meet the Weissmans, a Jewish family whose elder sons are members of the resistance. Working with Sendler they plot to remove children via the sewer network and into a disused church. Roza Weissman (excellently portrayed by Katie Dixon) is a weak and feeble woman, but her sons Ezra (Graham Barker) and Lemuel (Declan Rising) are made of sterner stuff. Both actors gave stirring performances in the doomed attempt to take on the German onslaught.

As expected in any true account of this period, some scenes were disturbing and difficult to watch, but I congratulate Connor Wood (German Officer) and Ellie Tams for their short but powerful scene. I doubt that professionals could have done it better. In the midst of this drama is the tiny spark of a love story between a young Jewish girl and a German soldier. One is almost certain that this is not going to end well, but Mr. Wrightam has lots of tricks up his sleeve. I say nothing more than that.From the largest to the smallest role, this company told a truly remarkable story, and the large audience last night rose to their feet as one at the curtain call, having witnessed a truly remarkable play.

A brilliant set and lighting added the final touch to this exceptional piece of theatre.

It is not a drama, a thriller, nor a suspense. As the programme states, we are bearing witness for the millions whose lives and dreams were stolen away. Lest We Forget.

Ghetto – The Irena Sendler Story continues Friday at The Parkway Theatre. Get a ticket at the door, you will remember it for a very long time.

Added to note:

This review was submitted after the first performance. Grace Holmes also played the title role in the adaptation of Ghetto: the Irena Sendler Story, with enormous respect for the brave woman she was, to great acclaim at the second performance. Class Act likes to offer opportunities to the largest number of its students and will often use alternative casts at each performance. It is unfortunate that we were unable to offer a review of the second cast's performance, though word of mouth has it that it was equally impressive and deeply moving, as well.

Lara Sutcliffe.

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