Driftwood: The Musical – a theatre review by Alex First

May 23, 2022 by Alex First
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Driftwood: The Musical is a heart-wrenching and inspiring piece of musical theatre, reflecting a dark period of history that changed and destroyed the lives of millions.

Photo:  Tania de Jong, Sarah Reed and Anton Berezin in a scene from Driftwood: The Musical. Photo: Cameron Grant, Parenthesy.

The starting point for creator Tania de Jong was her mother Eva de Jong-Duldig’s 2017 memoir “Driftwood – escape and survival through art”.

The musical focuses on the true story of Tania and Eva’s family and their struggles during the Holocaust and beyond.

Events begin to unfold as Eva (Sara Reed) – who also narrates – celebrates her 18th birthday, but all her life she has noted an unexplained sadness about her parents.

Then they gift her a treasure-trove of documents, letters, photos and more, which explain why.

Driftwood: The Musical is a poignant, personal story, which highlights the impact of the Shoah. I found it readily relatable.

The playwright is Jane Bodie, while the score by Antony Barnhill has been influenced by the music of the era and Jewish melodies, which would have been valued in the characters’ lives.

The way Driftwood has been written and sung, we get to really care about the individuals involved. I had tears running down my cheeks.

The set and props (the set designer is Jacob Battista) are highly evocative. Furniture and furnishings, along with personal items, establish the time frame. A jagged parchment-like screen above the stage is a fine showcase for visuals.

Sound and lighting design enhance the experience.

Musically, Tania de Jong (Slawa Horowitz-Duldig) and Michaela Burger (who plays Slawa’s sister Rella), in particular, have strong, rich and rounded voices.

Overall, Troy Sussman was most impressive in his multitude of guises, including Slawa Horowitz-Duldig’s husband Karl’s (Anton Berezin) brother and Rella’s husband.

The three-piece band – on piano, violin and cello – was excellent.

My only reservation is that on occasions some of the acting looked artificial or forced. That was especially apparent early on, although I did note it in certain scenes thereafter too. I would have much preferred a more natural delivery style.

But that is not to take anything away from the importance or impact of the material, which director Gary Abrahams has packaged most effectively.

Plaudits too for the highly informative and insightful program, which I urge you to purchase.

Driftwood: The Musical is playing at Chapel off Chapel until 28th May, 2022. 110 minutes, plus 20-minute interval

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