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Rosenbaum’s Rescue review at Park Theatre, London – ‘committed performances’

David Bamber and Dorothea Myer-Bennett in Rosenbaum's Rescue at Park Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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In October 1943 more than 7000 Jews were evacuated from Nazi-occupied Denmark, many being saved or sheltered by ordinary citizens. Examining the complicated and often contradictory causes of this mass act of collective resistance, Rosenbaum’s Rescue poses compelling questions, but struggles to articulate them dramatically.

Documentary maker and first-time playwright A Bodin Saphir takes a methodical approach to the material, working through a wealth of historical information, conspiracy theories, and theological talking points. Meanwhile, his characters – a Jewish couple, a cantankerous historian, and his semi-estranged daughter – debate it all at length during a convenient blizzard.

Director Kate Fahy does little to liven up proceedings, setting a pace so slow that a protracted scrabble game stands out as one of the show’s most engaging sequences. However, things do build up some steam towards the end. David Bamber’s mild-mannered Abraham talks movingly about the wartime experiences which led him to religion. Julia Swift’s put-upon housewife Sara delivers a justifiably furious speech about the lack of compassion faced by today’s refugees. And as PhD-dropout Eva, Dorothea Myer-Bennett manages to insert plenty of personality into a character seemingly written solely to ask for exposition.

The set, by William Fricker, is naturalistic and nicely detailed, an airy living space of pine beams which grows increasingly claustrophobic as the play wears on. A prominently displayed desktop calendar marks off the passing days, underlining the story’s often-repeated point that an obsessive focus on facts is no replacement for narrative.

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Dry study of under-examined historical events that gets a lift from some committed performances