This surprisingly warm and heartbreaking story about grief and displacement feels slight in telling audiences anything new about the pain that World War II caused both Jewish people and German people caught up in the atrocities.
Set after the Berlin Wall has fallen, Judith Burnley’s new play examines the long lasting effects that the Second World War has had on those from two different sides as well as the loneliness and isolation that both characters have felt in very different ways.
The story follows Otto and his new carer Lottie and their often difficult but eventually begrudgingly respectful relationship between two people who were both displaced citizens because of the war.
While Burnley’s play has pain, suffering and guilt at the centre of it, the conversations which pass between the two characters seem to rely too much on stereotypes – particularly when Otto constantly refers to Lottie as a ‘Nazi’ and his somewhat aggressive attitude towards her when particular painful memories come to light. While this attitude shows that time hasn’t healed Otto’s pain – you can’t help but wonder whether in reality he would talk that way to someone who is trying to help him.
Alice Hamilton’s production is gentle and straightforward but because of the lack of drama and purpose in the play mean it can lack drive. However, what the production does do is draw out the pain, suffering and guilt felt by both characters to great effect that makes the audience feel for them and everything that they have been through – this is particularly showcased in Otto’s monologue, describing what happened the night his family were captured by the Nazis.
But the production does feature two lovely performances from Clive Merrison as Otto and Issy van Randwyck as Lottie. Merrison delivers a performance that is a good balance between pain and anger that really shows that no matter how many years have passed his emotions are still raw in losing his family in horrific circumstances. Meanwhile, Issy van Randwyck as Lottie is a calming influence, her pain is quietly expressed but no less raw to watch in front of you. Her character is persistent and dignified throughout even when Otto accuses her of being a ‘Nazi’.
Overall, while the play and the production doesn’t have anything new to say about the Second World War and the sense of displacement that many people in Germany must have felt after it was over, it is still touching and poignant to watch the pain that haunts both Otto and Lottie unfold.
Anything that Flies continues to play at the Jermyn Street Theatre until the 11th November. For more information and to book tickets visit: http://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/show/anything-that-flies/