A young Jewish woman in Nazi Germany prepares herself for her journey eastwards to a concentration camp. As she packs her suitcase, she lingers over some of her most beloved items – a pencil; old flowers from a gypsy; a medal belonging to her father – and starts to reminisce about the past.
An evocative and thought-provoking piece of work that should not be missed.
The script written by Urquhart and James Douglas displays an admirable willingness to grapple with complexity. By drawing parallels between anti-Semitism and the way some Jews are prejudiced against gypsies, it demonstrates that people are easily – and often unwittingly – bound by a shared culpability. Victims too can be perpetrators. From the suggestive title to an allusion to the way Jews were viewed in Nazi Germany – ‘My brother [...] wasn’t the mouse I thought he was’, it is evident that the writers are keenly aware of the nuances of their subject matter.
Ruth Urquhart’s one-woman performance in Descent – the second piece in Red Card Theatres’ Denial Trilogy on the Holocaust – is masterful and deeply moving. She has the protean ability to shapeshift between a range of gaits and registers, doubling convincingly as other characters as she reenacts the series of events that took place in the years leading up to her family’s enforced departure from the city. The one-actor arrangement works well, subverting the barriers between Jews and non-Jews and conveying a sense of unity – a shared humanity; an intertwining of fates. Urquhart sustains the audience’s engagement throughout the play, drawing them into her intense mental and physical landscape.
Descent tugs at the heartstrings and is intelligently written, making for an evocative and thought-provoking piece of work that should not be missed.