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Review: Drowned or Saved?, at Tristan Bates Theatre

Focusing on the later years of Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, play puts a human face on an incomprehensible tragedy

16 November, 2018 — By ERIN COBBY

Marco Gambino and Alex Marchi in Drowned or Saved?. Photo: Ewa Ferdynus

BASED on a collection of essays with a similar name, Drowned or Saved? focuses on the later years of Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, (Marco Gambino) as he battles with the past and the inescapability of memory.

The narrative takes place in Levi’s study, which becomes numerous locations through imaginative rearranging. This helps create the thin line between memory and reality that devolves throughout the play.

Beginning rooted in the mundane present, the audience is gradually drawn further into Levi’s stories and reminiscences, his obsession making it impossible to distinguish between imagination and reality.

The use of multi-roling helps accentuate this confusion, adding to the pervading sense of the power of memory. This enveloping attribute is especially apparent when Gambino recalls Levi’s separation from his family upon his arrival at Auschwitz. His disembodied voice in complete darkness intensifies the feelings of claustrophobia and panic, encouraging you to place yourself in the action.

While this intensity makes for an emotive piece, the constantly suffering character of Null Achtzehn (Eve Niker) unfortunately doesn’t allow for much reflection on the action.

Paula Cassina deserves a special mention, her portrayal of both of Levi’s wives and his housekeeper has such quiet dignity and grace, adding a necessary subtlety and realistic human element to the play.

Created with the aim to “engage artistically with the history of the Jews”, Drowned or Saved? puts a human face on an incomprehensible tragedy.

Until November 24
0203 841 6611


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