The White Rose
Jack Studio Theatre
Reviewed – 19th July 2018
“a richly poignant and artistically cinematographic production”
In a richly poignant and artistically cinematographic production, Arrows and Traps Theatre Company presents the sad, courageous story of Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans who, with like-minded friends, formed the pacifist, anti-Nazi group, The White Rose. Together they wrote propaganda leaflets against Hitler and his regime and secretly distributed them all over Germany. In the company’s first original play, Ross McGregor, as writer and director, uses diaries, court and interrogation documents and first-hand accounts to bring to light the strength and sacrifice made by these young people. It is comforting that, although their bravery is little known in Britain, the members of the group are national heroes in Germany.
Projections of Hitler’s brutally powerful speeches introduce both halves of the play, setting a tone of oppression. We switch from Sophie’s cross-examination to the group meetings and more personal friendships but with the prominent shadow of the Gestapo cleverly present almost throughout. Lucy Ioannou, as Sophie, steps in and out of these two worlds with ease, from spirited student to shocked detainee, becoming cornered by imposing Gestapo officer Robert Mohr (Christopher Tester). Excellent performances all round create a feeling of the life which both stimulates and contrasts their fight. Fittingly similar in appearance to their subjects they each bring a well-drawn character to the group.
The filmic effect runs through the work. The red of Sophie’s cardigan against an otherwise sombre background echoes the 2005 film ‘Sophie Scholl. The Final Days’; interspersed scenes of the past and passages of abstract movement paint a broader picture of their lives. The set by Odin Corie combines a traditional, central table and period props, with gauze side-screens, effectively used for off-stage action. Ben Jacobs’ lighting is stunningly dramatic. It conjures up the atmosphere of the many scenes and marks the changes, perfectly coordinated with Alistair Lax’s sound. There is a practically non-stop selection of atmospheric music and effects yet the significance of the words could be enhanced with less. And although there are some very imaginative movement sequences, certain gas-masked Gestapo routines undermine the tone of the play.
‘The White Rose’ is an eye-catching production with an important message of remembrance. Careful, thoughtful direction builds the intensity but rather than peaking at one climactic point it holds its breath while we hear their last moments and imagine what their lives could have been, absorbing it through the drama and taking it away with us.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Davor Tovarlaza
The White Rose
Jack Studio Theatre until 4th August