By Claudio Macor
On at Above the Arts
Claudio Macor walks through the audience and onto the stage. He admits that it is unusual for a director to show his face before the premier of his own production and he would usually be ‘hiding at the back’. Macor then recites a heartfelt and touching poem in ode to the victims of the recent Orlando attack in gay nightclub ‘Pulse’. He then dedicates the play that is to follow; ‘Pulse is Orlando and Orlando is Savage’.
Even before the production has begun we are shaken with the relevance of this play set in WWII.
The story that follows tells of Dr Carl Peter Vaernet (Gary Fannin), a doctor funded by the Nazis to ‘cure’ homosexuality. Fannin plays this role with a chilling and clinical calm.
Two other story lines weave their way through the next two and a half hours, intertwined with Dr Vaernet’s. That of lovers Zack Travis (Nic Kyle) and Nikolai Bergsen (Alexander Huetson) and the abusive relationship between Caberet performer Georg Jensen (Lee Night) and his captor General Heinrich Von Aechelman (Bradley Clarkson).
The play spans many years and follows several different characters. Because of this, at times, we are told much of the story through long monologues, which leave us longing for the development of one singular storyline, lived out and explored on stage. In this small theatre space, the undoubtedly skilled acting can overbear the more subtle emotion.
There is genuine and brutal truth to be found in the performance though. A climactic reunion between old lovers Zack and Nikolai challenges hope in a world where naïve positivity is no longer enough. Lee Night must also be commended on the delicate strength with which he portrays Georg and the demonstration of a spirit that cannot be broken.
Savage is an important piece of work that does not only tell a story that belongs to our dark history, but also speaks to our troubled reality. It cries out for us to learn from past mistakes and we must listen.
On at Above the Arts, London, until July 23rd. Booking.
©Janina Smith 2016