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

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.

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

Production Information

Production
Rosenbaum’s Rescue
Venue
Park Theatre
City
London
Starts
January 9, 2019
Ends
February 9, 2019
Press night
January 15, 2019
Authors
A Bodin Saphir (debut)
Director
Kate Fahy
Set
William Fricker
Lighting
Emma Chapman
Sound
Sophie Cotton
Stage manager
Ricky McFadden (company stage manager)
Cast includes
David Bamber, Neil McCaul, Dorothea Myer-Bennett, Julia Swift
Producer
Park Theatre, Breaking Productions
Running time
2hrs 15mins