Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Badac Theatre Company
Venue: Pleasance Over the Road
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
This is entirely visceral, emotive drama. With eight plays under their belt, Badac Theatre Co. have again created a terrifying and heartbreaking piece of Art based around the experiences of Jewish people in the Holocaust.
Last year they brought The Factory to the Pleasance vaults. This year, Steve Lambert, co-founder of the company, performs alone on an empty stage barely letting up a furious energy that draws us powerfully into the experiences he evokes.
He inhabits a man and his family as their city is bombed, they are taken to the Ghetto and finally the Camps. As we enter the theatre Lambert is running aggressively on the spot repeating: ‘Run from the beast, fucking faster, fucking Jew’ ‘Jew skull crushed , bang bang bang, not going fast enough.’ He goes on to convey his horror and absolute helplessness in the face of such brutality. He witnesses his mother beaten and stripped and made to crawl like a dog. It is the humiliation that is the worst thing: ‘Dignity, respect, gone.’ At the camp it is having to comprehend and explain the incomprehensible to his young child that is the most desperately moving aspect.
Lambert’s style is loud and forceful. He does this to get as close as he can to the actual experience. He shouts and screams so much that he regularly foams at the mouth. He repeats some lines over and over, drilling them into our consciousness. He goes quiet when he is reflecting, but soon gets loud and angry again as if in adherence to the suffering ghosts of the Holocaust.
It is an incredible performance, not least the physical energy but the emotion he must dispel in every performance. I can only imagine it is the dedication to his work and his deep awareness of the reality of human suffering that gets him through. Lambert skillfully creates the nightmarish reality on stage by being completely absorbed in his performance. It is as if the very soul of the character he plays has taken possession of him. It is such an onslaught we never have time to take stock and when there are one or two seconds of quiet they take on immense power.
Badac creates its work around human rights issues and is influenced by the philosophies of Grotowski and Artaud. Films, books, exhibitions of the Holocaust and other horrors will stir a certain amount of emotion in us, but we are usually within our safety zone. Badac are not concerned with this because perhaps, as human beings, they feel we have a duty to comprehend how others have and are suffering. Therefore you are unlikely to see anything that brings you this close to the actual ordeal.
As a monologue form, Lambert’s performance breaks new ground both in terms of eliciting raw emotional response in us and creating a frighteningly tangible sense of horror using the body alone on stage.
This piece offers no solutions, it simply and terribly effectively evokes an experience that most of us will luckily never have to endure. Badac deserve awards for creating theatre that is so important and so powerfully alive.