If They're Human
Rating: ★★★★
Venue: The Space, London
Cast: Nicole Campbell-Booth, Neil Patrick, Justin Cartledge, Ian Gilbert, Paul Sparrowham, Louise MacNorman, Emily Walker, Jon Keeler, Matt Jones, Neil Gray, Richard Orchard-Rowe, Ben Martins, Romyann Brooks, Amy Clayton, Ellen Trim, Jen Bell and Rachel Johnson

An original musical love story of one couple’s determination to survive after being forced into a Jewish concentration camp, enduring the unimaginable horrors of WW2. Captain Hassler has taken a shine to Lea, unaware of his own admiration from Corporal Plagge. Both trapped by their duties versus moral compass, they attempt to help where they can…but is it enough? Despite the fear and constant threat of death for them all, Lea and Petr find hope in their dreams of a future with one another.

If They’re Human, directed and produced by Amy Clayton, is a heart shattering window into the suffering endured by millions in the name of hate and discrimination that’s still as active as ever today as it was then. Justin Cartledge began to put this piece together in 2019 after a visit to Auschwitz Birkenau Concentration Camp; a hell on earth that cannot possibly be explained or understood, one must see with their own eyes. With characters created to represent and share those individuals' true stories, and give a voice to some names not often or ever heard about, and reminding us of the vast uncomprehendable sea of voices that have and never will be heard.

On entering the room I was faced with two Nazi guards patrolling the space in eerie silence, creating an atmosphere of discomfort and fear which actually made me feel rather nauseous. The set was very bare other than two pieces of barbed wire fence and a small set up of inside the house. The score and opening number of the show still makes me shiver, the haunting beauty of the music compounded by the extremely clever and sparing use of the very limited lighting rig hold so much power and intensity. The threadbare costumes of the ensemble had so much attention to detail, even down to having holes in their socks; every tiny decision about this piece was clearly so careful and intentional.

I wasn’t expecting a musical about the holocaust to contain contemporary dance but the choreography absolutely stole the show for me. Every single moment held pure beauty and grace, as the ensemble nature of the direction meant that the entire show moves as one. Every single performer is absolutely integral to the telling of these stories and the creation of the world we are in. I also have to give a second to the spine chillingly haunting vocal arrangements which gave depth and intensity that cannot be imagined.

There was depth and meaning to every single character at all moments of their story, a feat not always achieved in the genre of romance when the focus wants to be on the ‘lead couple’. This production only held the amount of power and emotion that it did due to the fact that the audience form an emotional connection with every character individually, and rather than just being seen as ‘background characters’, the ensemble are used so effectively that is to go as far as to say that the ensemble was my favourite character. Based on this and the incredible amount of talent held by every single member of the company, I have purposely avoided spotlighting individuals because every single person involved deserves an equal amount of credit for the masterpiece they have created.

It feels disrespectful to say I ‘enjoyed’ it but this piece of theatre is certainly essential in the world and more powerful than I can possibly find the words to describe, you truly need to see it for yourself.

You can keep up with the team at Early Doors Productions here and check out their upcoming work.

You can book tickets to see If They're Human at The Space, London, here.

Review by Rachel

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