Written by A. Bodin Saphir, Rosenbaum’s Rescue is set at Hanukkah in 2001. At a remote home on the snowy Danish coast, it’s time for two old friends to bury the hatchet. Lars (Neil McCaul) and Abraham (David Bamber) have not seen eye to eye for decades, but old tensions refuse to thaw as Lars’ relentless pursuit of the truth concerning the plight of Danish Jews during WWII challenges Abraham’s faith, patience and memories.
When I enter the performance space I feel as though I have stepped right into a branch of IKEA. The stage is transformed into a modern kitchen and living room space. A comfortable sofa stands centre stage, flanked by two side tables. Along with a coffee table and chairs, it completes the living room. Also inlcuded is a kitchen, complete with fridge, oven and coffee set. William Fricker’s domesticated set is almost too pristine, but small details such as a nine branched menorah and photos attached to the cupboard doors keep it from feeling too sterile. Emma Chapman’s lighting design, using standing and desk lamps to illuminate the space, manages to fill the stage with a warm, early evening glow. Still, the space feels empty and as if someone has measured out the distance between every piece of furniture and kitchen appliance.
The actors are well cast, and Director Kate Fahy has managed to create a tight knit group whose interactions seem natural. It feels as though I’m watching a family on stage, with all the squabbles and imperfections that come with them. I particularly enjoy Dorothea Myer-Bennett as Eva, the smart, PHD-quitting, aspiring novelist lesbian. Although the character is a stereotype millennial on paper, Myer-Bennett gives Eva the necessary energy to lift her away from that. With lines such as “I added F, E to male, making it far more superior in the process”, Eva adds some much-needed comic relief to the proceedings.
The cast often stumble over their lines, although this is not the fault of the actors, as I feel the play would benefit from the script being tighter. I checked my watch, and 45 minutes into the play I still couldn’t figure out where the story was going. Too many branches of narrative intertwine, without there being single main one to guide us through. There is the history between Abraham and Lars, the past romance between Lars and Abraham’s wife Sara (Julia Swift), a son, who in a Waiting for Godot-type narrative never arrives, a call to action to protect the refugees of today, and the almighty question of whether we should put our trust in fact or faith. Although the second half picked up the pace a little, I mostly felt as though I was in the midst of a history lesson, having an ethical discussion about whether something inherently evil can hold a sense of humanity. It’s a shame, because the historical context is definitely well researched and treated with great care.
All in all, Rosenbaum’s Rescue is an ambitious debut play. However, it could say a lot more in a lot less time. The way it stands now, someone unfamiliar with the history of the Danish Jews would leave the theatre well informed, but more exhausted than entertained. With a little tinkering and a better idea of what the most important plot point is, I believe this play could far exceed the message it wants to portray.
Rosenbaum’s Rescue is playing until 9 February. For more information and tickets, visit the Park Theatre wesbite.