Review – Children’s Touring Partnership at The Lowry
Our theatre reviewer Lorna expected to be in floods of tears, but none of the characters quite got her there.
Brought to the stage for the first time, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a Second World War tale of an unlikely friendship between two young boys.
Bruno, the son of a German Commandant finds himself and his family uprooted from Berlin to Poland for his father’s job promotion and desperately missing his ‘three best friends for life’.
In search of adventure and someone to play with, Bruno comes across a high barbed wire fence and on the other side of it, a boy his own age but much thinner and smaller called Shmuel.
Shmuel tells Bruno there are hundreds more people on his side of the fence, all wearing scruffy blue and white ‘pyjamas’ just like him.
He tells Bruno how he was forced to leave his home and brought here with his family – ‘just like what happened to me’, Bruno remarks.
Bruno sneaks away from his house to see Shmuel as often as he can, and starts taking Smmuel food as he always seems hungry. In his naivety Bruno wishes he could be on that side of the fence too and have people to play with.
With over 6 million Jewish and up to 5 million more minority groups killed during the Holocaust, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas should serve to bring a human aspect to those unimaginable statistics as it narrows in on the individual stories of Bruno and Shmuel as their friendship forms.
The staging is minimal and should also serve to let the powerful story break through.
However, sadly this adaptation does not seem to illicit the emotional response I expected it to, as it is difficult to empathise with any of the characters, even Shmuel. It seems to scratch the surface but no character truly grips you – even my hatred for the Commandant was minimal as isn’t portrayed as dark or imposing enough.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, while a fictional novel, is a Key Stage 3 level school text for 11 – 14 year olds. Difficult as it must be to portray anything Holocaust related on stage and for a young audience to fully understand the horrors of the genocide, it is none the less important that there should be an accessible starting point. I just think this adaptation seems to be more on the safe side rather than provoking what may sometimes be challenging but none the less important questions of humanity and morality.
For more information about this production of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, click here.
Photographs: The Lowry