Outside On The Street**** (Arcola Theatre, 2 September 2013)

Posted: September 3, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

In 1945, a soldier returns home from the War to find everything changed; his parents dead, his wife unfaithful, the infant he never saw buried under the rubble of a bombed building. There have been many dramas illustrating the human costs of the two World Wars, most that are seen in this country being told from an allied perspective. However, this one centres on Sergeant Beckmann, a soldier who had been fighting for the German army on the Eastern front in World War II and it leads us to ponder how the sense of the futility of it all must have been magnified still further in a defeated country. It is a brave move by the young company, Invertigo, to take on a rarely performed play that is so seemingly cheerless, but they have enlivened it by bringing to the fore the surreal humour in the script and have even added songs, composed by Blair Mowat. Wolfgang Borchert wrote this play in just six days after escaping from a prisoner of war camp and walking 370 miles back to Hamburg. If the story is not autobiographical as such, the writing is heartfelt and clearly draws deep from Borchert’s emotional turmoil at that terrible time. After a month in Edinburgh, the performances are finely tuned. The five strong all male cast, four of them taking on multiple roles, interact perfectly, giving the production the pace, energy and physicality that are crucial for the play to hold its grip on the audience. The language in this translation by Tom Fisher is very modern and, as played by Paapa Essiedu, Beckmann is a very modern, laddish character. In striking a balance between despair and sardonic humour, this is a beautifully pitched performance. Running for just an hour, Outside On The Street is a challenging piece. However, at a time when our forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan and other conflicts loom on the horizon, it is still as relevant today as when it was written and all involved with this production are to be congratulated for bringing it to the stage and interpreting it in a way that makes it accessible for audiences in 2013.

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