Thursday, April 7, 2011

Our Class - Studio 180 - Berkeley Street Theatre

After a mis-step with Parade, Studio 180 is back on form with Our Class.
The play starts slowly with many non-English names to keep track of and frequent bouts of song, dance and espoused philosophy but grows and grows.
This is what 180 does do well, why they are a necessary company in this city. They take an issue and they look at it from all sides. Sides you didn't know existed.
This play is set in a small Polish country-town where, before the second World War, the village came together and murdered all the Jews. The play vividly shows Poles hunting the Jews for their perceived injustices against them, then shows the Jews hunting the Poles, and back, and forth. The play does a great service exposing the fallacy of human nature. It weighs issues of guilt, mob mentality, prejudice and religion and brings them all together.
I have always believed a disservice was being done to the victims of the war by whitewashing the truth and this play helps to shine light on the facts. After the war when the people of the town are called to account for this genocide, they blame the Germans and everyone goes along. There is a plaque laid to commemorate where the Germans killed the towns Jews. The fact that the Germans hadn't gotten there yet, that the town was occupied by Russia, is swept aside.
We do a disservice to the memory of the fallen by over-simplifying the situation. By saying "the Germans killed all those people because the Germans were evil" we can't learn. I know one of the hopes with Remembrance Day is that we never forget, that we don't let it happen again. This is best achieved with a frank examination of  the facts, by humanizing both sides of the story. By remembering that on both sides there were people, just like us, living the best they could. By seeing how things can escalate out of control, by examining how our government can manipulate us, and by focusing on the humanity of all involved, this is what can save us from repeating our history.
And by illustrating all this and getting me worked up enough to type this, Studio 180 again has fulfilled their mandate.
"To produce socially relevant theatre that provokes public discourse and promotes community engagement."

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