“It is superb”
A few years ago, my dad said to me, “you know your great grandfather designed and built Ribbentrop’s Country house. Even imported the bricks from Germany”.
“You mean Von Ribbentrop? The Nazi? Friend of Adolf Hitler?”
“That’s the feller”.
“Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“Didn’t think you’d be interested. Don’t know a lot about it. There was a photograph album. Lots of pictures of the house and Ribbentrop saluting, looking very pleased with himself. The album got destroyed by a V2 at the end of the war.”
Fortunately for us many of the extraordinary war photographs taken by Gerda Taro have been preserved for us either by newspapers or museums. Ross McGregor, in this quite remarkable and riveting piece of theatre, tells the story of Gerda Taro.
Gerda was born Gerta Pohorylle. A German Jew she moved to France in the ‘30s. There she met Endre Friedman, a fellow Jew, who introduced her to the art of photography. Anti Semitism in Paris pursued them both. For purely commercial reasons they both changed their names. Gerta to Gerda and Endre to the now extraordinarily famous name of Robert Capa. Both left to cover the Spanish Civil war. In 1937, at the age of 26, Gerda Taro was crushed by a republican tank. Capa went on to become one of the most renowned war photographers of all time. We now know (thanks to a huge amount of negatives discovered in Mexico City in 2007) that a lot of Capa’s most seminal shots should have been attributed to Taro. McGregor tells the story with a typically remarkable precision in this fast paced and kaleidoscope production.
He is aided by his Arrows and Traps’ company who put in a remarkable ensemble performance. It seems invidious to highlight individual performances but Cornelia Baumann and Tom Hartill put in electrifying work at the heart of the piece.
The movement work of Matthew Parker is quite superb. (I really don’t know whether to describe this as Parker’s ‘day job’, given that he runs the Hope in Islington; that powerhouse of a theatre producing some of the finest work in London.) At one point he asks the company to represent ‘Flint’ the bird. I must admit, as they were doing this, I thought of my days at Drama school and my dreadful attempts at Masque work. Yet here Toby Wynn- Davies’ becomes, in a most extraordinary way, ‘Flint’. (and who wouldn’t love a man who lists himself as a ‘founding member of a quasi-Latvian troupe of fire breathing clowns’)
Alastair Lax soundscape serves the piece brilliantly. As does Ben Jacob’s lighting design.
McGregor is quite right to regard this as one of his best pieces of theatre. It is superb. I urge you to see it.
As a footnote to the country house that my grandfather built. It is now owned by a Jewish family who said recently, “to be honest it’s great knowing that Hitler’s Fascist foreign minister would be turning in his grave”.
TARO written and directed by Ross McGregor
Arrows and Traps Company
Brockley Jack Studio
15th Jan-16th Feb.
In Rep. with ‘Gentleman Jack.’
Box office: www.brockleyjack.co.uk or 0333 666 3366 (£1.50 fee for phone bookings only)
Dates: Gentleman Jack Tues 15 January to Sat 16 February 2019
Performances at 7.30pm (16+)
Shooting With Light Sat 19 January to Sat 16 February 2019
Performances at 7.30pm (14+)
(no performances Sunday, Monday)
Tickets: £16, £13 concessions
Reviewer Richard Braine is actor, director and playwright.
As an Actor he has worked extensively throughout the country including Chichester Festival Theatre, Manchester Royal Exchange, Birmingham Rep, and Stephen Joseph Theatre in Yorkshire. His Television and Film credits include: “Calendar Girls”, “Pride, Prejudice and Zombies”, “Finding Neverland”, “Bridget Jones”, “Suspicions of Mr Whicher”, “Mr Selfridge” and many years ago Gussie Fink-Nottle in “Jeeves and Wooster”. He has also filmed over 150 Commercials all over the world.
He has directed the European premiere of Sternheim/Martin “The Underpants” at The Old Red Lion Theatre and written three plays: “Being There with Sellers”, “Bedding Clay Jones” and “Sexing Alan Titchmarsh”.