Review: Five, by Lorena Cenci, Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich, until February 4

The people imprisoned in Auschwitz were made to march in rows of five.

The cold efficiency of the Nazi extermination of Jewish people still has the power to shock, more than 50 years after the end of the Second World War.

Of the 1.3 million people who were sent there, just 200,000 survived. Of the 1.3 million stories, writer Lorena Cenci brings us five. They are fictional characters created from her research into the victims of the Holocaust and the recorded experiences of survivors.

Five Jewish women are united in death by what happened at Auschwitz. One, a teenager, grieves for the future that was stolen from her in the gas chamber. She had wanted to live.

A young mother watched as her son died en route, packed in the railway trucks that took them to the end of the line.


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A cellist who played in the Auschwitz orchestra and whose music kept her mind free until she was liberated; the singer who fell in love with one of her German captors; the woman who, against the odds, survived the harsh work regime, the starvation and deprivation.

It could have been an emotionally draining piece of theatre - the stories are so piercingly sad. But, though deceptively simple in its construction, it manages to be dramatically intense without tipping into sentimentality.

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Part of the balance comes from the narrator who encourages the women to explore how they feel about what was done to them so that, in turn, he can try to understand it.

The sensitive direction, good pace, uncluttered set, perfectly-timed projected images, music and unobtrusive lighting helped give the production focus.

But chiefly it was the moving testimonies of the women and the interaction between all six characters that held the attention.

The performances from Colin Lee Bennett, Hattie Bennett (who played the cello wonderfully), Jane Cole, Sheila Garnham, Molly Scurrell and Sally-Ann Scurrell were heartfelt, warm and affecting.

It is their humanity rather than their persecutors’ evil that ultimately triumphs.

LYNNE MORTIMER

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