THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
I deliberately refused offers to read this book because I wanted to see this play with fresh and untainted eyes, no preconceptions and expectations and I am so pleased that I did because this play really hits you when you know nothing of what is to come. It also gave me the opportunity to allow myself to be shocked by the storyline and for the unravelling of the characters and their true roles in this wonderful, emotion packed and harrowing story.
The year is 1943 and Bruno's father, after a visit from "The Fury" and Eva Braun, breaks the news that the family are being moved out to the country to a home called "Out-With"as part of 9 year old Bruno's father's job for the foreseeable future.
Bruno is taken away from all that he deems to be secure and friendly and away from his lifelong friends. The new home is also under the watchful eye of of one particular soldier who seems to take a dislike to some of the staff but takes a liking to Bruno's mother. In Bruno's boredom he spies from his window a camp where there are lots of children all dressed in striped pyjamas and he decides to investigate. He soon befriends one of the young boys called Schmuel and they soon begin to make comparisons between their two, very different lives.
Bruno wants to cross over the barbed wire fence that separates the two friends and play and explore the camp and he plans this as a final adventure after he is told that he and his family, minus his father, are to be moved back to Berlin. Schmuel gets him a set of striped pyjamas so that he will not be spotted once inside the camp, but what happens after this seals Schmuel's and Bruno's tragic fate.
It isn't till near the end of the second half that all the pieces fall into place and you realised what had happened to Schmuel's missing father and what was to happen to Bruno and Schmuel. It also fell into place that "Out-With" really wasn't it's real name and what Bruno's father's job really was.
The young actors who played Bruno and Schmuel were exceptional and gave incredibly mature performances in this brilliant but heart wrenching story. The whole cast were like these two's supporting cast and what a great cast they all were, with several sub plots interwoven throughout, which again made sense after you had digested the whole play.
The revolving stage gave another dimension to the scenes and the story was moved on through the cinematic backdrop relaying the time lines as headlines or chapters of the story. The scenery was minimal with just several props to communicate where the story was set at any given time, The most striking bit of the scenery was the large dividing barbed wire fence which had separated the two youngsters lifestyles and lives, which also led to their downfall.
Harrowing and emotional but a play you must see to bring the true horrors of the second world war to life through the eyes of one nine year old boy.
"The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 21 March 2015.