White Bear Theatre, London – until the 23 March 2019
Guest reviewer: Emily Schofield
Impactful and unsettling – The Project shows the power of manipulation under Nazi control.
The Holocaust, and the lives which existed around it, is a difficult topic to create art about. The sensitivities that need to be taken and the controversies which can arise can be detrimental to a show’s success. As a Holocaust Educational Trust student ambassador, I’m always a little hesitant to see how a show will handle such a delicate subject.
Thankfully, The Project knows exactly how to tell this type of narrative in a sensitive but still informative way. It tells the story of a young girl, Anna (Faye Maughan), who decides to manipulate a Nazi officer who is romantically interested in her in order to prevent her mother from being sent away. It portrays the Jewish community as a strong and artistic collective who find ways of gaining advantages when trapped within a regime which wants you removed entirely.
Bizarrely, my favourite part of the show was the final ten minutes. This isn’t by any means because I wasn’t enjoying the piece, but instead because the harsh reality that all of the characters had been denying in their own ways, finally comes to pass. The performances which shine through in those moments as these characters accept their fates is easily the most powerful and memorable part of the show. It is a perfect ending which leaves a thought provoking impact upon its audience.
The show’s pace is one of its biggest issues. Some moments feel like they drag on half a scene longer than they should do whilst other moments feel rushed and brushed past before you are able to fully immerse yourself in them. However, despite this, every scene of the show feels necessary – Ian Buckley has written a poignant book which shines throughout the show.
The character of Conrad Schaffer (Mike Duran) was absolutely fantastic. He was the perfect mix of terror and calmness and often made me shudder as soon as he entered a scene. His presence was undeniable and it really sold the show to me.
Likewise, the charm and appeal of the other characters (Lloyd Morris, Faye Maughan, Nick Delvallé, Eloise Jones, Cate Morris) were really what made the piece enjoyable.The wit and humour they brought lifted the show tenfold and made the characters feel relatable – allowing the audience to empathise and connect with their hardships and trials.
I would have liked to see more of the Mother, Etta Hilmann (Cate Morris) throughout the piece, as the stubbornness of her character made her very entertaining and it would have been nice for her to be involved in more of the scenes somehow.
During the second act, there was the addition of a curtain which divided, the limited space, into two sections, one of which was obscured from the view of the audience when the curtain was pulled across.This was a genius design and worked really well in transitioning in and out of scenes.
The second act opens with a cabaret performance, which when aided by the curtains – felt very immersive, especially when the officer, Conrad Schaffer, was also sat amongst the audience. However the curtains were also used to represent closing doors of a truck, which was very effective and was synced perfectly with a sound effect which was very convincing.
One element of the show that I wasn’t massively keen on was when the transitions between scenes dragged a little bit. This was because characters were having to take props on and off at the end of scenes and this sometimes took a little bit of time. In fairness, this was pretty much unavoidable given the restrictions of the small performance space however it was a little distracting at times and pulled me out of the piece whilst I was waiting for the next scene to begin.
Overall, The Project was an interesting show which hit me massively and carries an important message. I’m excited to see how and if the play will develop at all in any future productions and I’m sure it will do very well this month at the White Bear Theatre.