Review: The Good and the True

Leeds Carriageworks

SUNDAY is Holocaust Memorial Day, hence the timing of this play. You might wonder how many more ways there can be of documenting the genocide.

The fact is that there are the six million stories of those who were exterminated, plus the testimony of people who lived through unimaginable horror but survived. Each one is good reason to keep the narrative alive.

Hana, a budding actress and Milos, an athlete, never met – even though they both grew up in Prague and returned to the city at the end of the war.

In between they passed through many of the same places, and their young lives were ravaged by what they experienced first in Terezin (Teresienstadt) and then in Auschwitz. Both managed to avoid the gas chamber by being fit and strong enough to do hard physical work for the Nazis. This is their story, based on Hana’s journal, kept in the last months of the war, and interviews with both protagonists.

Separate monologues told by Saul Reichlin and Isobel Pravda (actress grand-daughter of Hana, who went on to live and work in Australia then London), the two stories flow together, highlighting different aspects of life and loss in the death camps.

Pravda is captivatingly luminous, almost ghostly in her evocation of a story that’s in her own blood. Reichlin, a fine character actor, plays many roles and unexpectedly describes how for Milos the grimness of the situation could be forgotten for 90 minutes while playing football, and a moment of common humanity found in competing at shot put with one of his gaolers. Prague-based theatre company Svandolo Divadlo deserve gratitude for bringing this piece on a UK tour, as does Leeds-based producer Brian Daniels, who adapted the English translation.

To Jan 26.