Edinburgh Fringe 2015
A spiritual story about four artists who encountered angels during the Nazi occupation in Budapest, Hungary, 1943.
The setting is a lecture hall at the London School of Economics in 1991 and the speaker is Gitta Mallasz. Gitta is an elderly woman who begins her lecture about a true story she experienced in Budapest, Hungary during the year of 1943. This lecture hall setting includes a chair, a wooden cross and a Menorah with a screen on the back wall with slides. Gitta tells us about growing up when she was part of a group of four – three women and one man discovering yoga and Jungian psychology – during the Nazi occupation of Hungary – and how they encountered four angels. Shelley Mitchell plays Gitta as well as angels and another character. Mitchell is a compelling dramatic actor and storyteller, switching between the characters and accents with a physical and vocal change very effectively.
The story is true and written by Mallasz in a well-known book originally published in French in 1976, later published in English called Talking with Angels. Slides on the back wall highlight important points and unlike a lecture slide presentation where the slides change abruptly, these fade in and out with elegance. Lighting changes support the show dramatically, delineating time and place. Sound and music add to the atmosphere and seriousness of the story, including La Follia played by the East Coast Chamber Orchestra and the Last Shabbat.
Mitchell is at her best when she is Gitta, charming, sincere and a humble heroine for helping to save the lives of many Jews in 1943/44. At ease in the space Mitchell inhabits the angels very well demonstrating a vast emotional range in a quality performance. This is a living history story that is moving and well produced. At eighty minutes long it could benefit from some careful editing for a Fringe festival, especially in the middle section. On the other hand for an evening of dramatic theatre this piece holds its own. The last part is effective because the pace quickens up and it is back to Gitta to recount some of the action, and this drives the story forward well.