Last week saw the curtains fall on Edelweiss Pirates, a touching and powerful story played out by Bedford School boys about a group of teenagers who rose up against the Nazis.
Lower Sixth Former Enoch Mukungu was in the audience and has written his thoughts on the play in the review below:
The Edelweiss Pirates – Directed by Caroline Millington
Peter Hall, a theatre director of some renown, once wrote that if theatre “doesn’t challenge, provoke or illuminate, it is not fulfilling its function.” If those are the criteria against which we must judge all performances, then The Edelweiss Pirates is a smashing success. Luckily for us, it also engages, thrills, and moves us, pushed forward by fastidiously constructed central characters and an effective chorus, and powered by ideas and themes that, unfortunately, have once again become timely.
The Edelweiss Pirates is based on the true story of a group of youths in Nazi Germany who opposed Hitler when the adults often wouldn’t. Under the guidance of the narrator, played subtly by Charlie Thompson, the audience plays witness to the final days of the Edelweiss Pirates, interjected at various points with monologues from the Edelweiss Pirates, walking us through their lives.
Led by Benjamin Dressler, played by Rowan Bassett-Pollitt in his most rewarding performance yet as the last survivor of a Jewish family that has been sent off to concentration camps, the Edelweiss Pirates discover a young deserter, Rutger Shriener, played by Ben Barnes, who almost walks always with the entire play with his precise depiction of a Nazi caught between his own unchallenged anti-Semitism and the reality of the Jewish boy who saved him. The interplay between the two is simply the best part of the play, allowing the performance to interrogate the realities of racism, and the cost of war on the human soul, while also bringing in a few moments of levity.
The play’s most striking image will be its most controversial; the sight of Fourth Form boys wearing swastikas is not one that leaves the mind, but for some audience members who mistake the professionalism of the boys on stage for ignorance of the subject matter, they may question the wisdom in letting junior boys play around with such charged iconography. But the play provides the best argument for it. Taking the chorus boys who played the Hitler Youth and making them the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, reciting the statistics of their own deaths, delivering in an already affecting performance, its most powerful moment.
The Edelweiss Pirates is one the rare gems of theatre that could only have come from a school production. This play is designed to speak to the youth, to approach the often-intimidating topic of the Holocaust from a perspective that the intended audience can understand and converts the difficult themes of racism and war into relatable ideas. A triumph, from start to finish.
By Enoch Mukungu, Lower Sixth Form.
Director, Caroline Millington, said, “It was an absolute pleasure to work with the boys on this project and I have been so impressed with their maturity when dealing with such a sensitive and challenging subject matter. I am immensely proud of their achievements and I look forward to Boycott Theatre Company’s next chapter.”