The Children's Republic runs until October 8th at the Belfry Theatre

The Children's Republic runs until October 8th at the Belfry Theatre

The Strength of the Human Spirit in The Children’s Republic

Monday Magazine's Theatre Critic Sheila Martindale reviews The Belfry's The Children's Republic

All of the young people in The Children’s Republic were born after the year 2000, very far away from the Holocaust, and likely with no family memories of persecution of the Jews leading up to the Second World War.  So it says a lot for their talent, and for the direction (by Christian Barry) of this play, that they can enter into lives so different from their own.

 

Janusz Korczak was the pseudonym of Dr. Henryk Goldszmit, a polish physician, writer and educator, who dedicated his life to the children in the orphanages under his care.  As the lives of Jews became more and more difficult under the swastika and the boot in Warsaw, he became increasingly diligent in saving children from starvation and its related illnesses.  In addition he educated them, taught them life skills, and ultimately stood with them on their last journey to ‘resettlement in the East’ – in other words the cattle trains to the death camps.

Hannah Moscovitch has written a powerful play about four of these children and their relationship with Korczak and his assistant. Kaitlin Hickey’s dismal lighting and Camellia Koo’s set and costume design prepare the stage for the mood of the play, and make the light shining from within the protagonists even more cogent. This new version of the play was commissioned by, and workshopped at, the Belfry.

 

Sophia Irene Coopman portrays Sara, a gifted violinist, who actually survives the war and goes on to become an acknowledged musician in Europe. She brings a quiet intensity to the role, and works well with Sari Alesh (a recent immigrant from Syria) who actually plays the violin on stage; and this music is an important and integral part of the production.  Mettye, the impulsive pre-adolescent, is beautifully handled by Lily Cave; and her voice is strong even when she is not using a microphone.  Simeon Sanford Blades is Misha, the bookworm (whom we last saw at the Belfry as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol.) We are automatically drawn to his peacemaking presence.  The most challenging  role for a young person is the character of Israel, a troubled teenager who causes difficulty for everyone, but who desperately needs the love and care he receives from the Doctor. He is the one who goes out and finds food for the besieged legion of children, at the same time upsetting the moral law with which they are being raised. Zander Eke undertakes this complex character with a maturity beyond his years.

 

Kerry Sandomirsky as Stefa, the able administrator, teacher and nurse, is very effective, and her interaction with the children and with Korczak is kind, fair and wonderfully loyal. The role of Dr. Korczak is, of course, pivotal, and Paul Rainville portrays this enlightened and wise man with all the dignity and humility that is legendary. He could have got out of the ghetto on the strength of his education and position; but it was not in him to leave his young charges when they needed him the most.

If this all sounds depressing, be aware that there is humour in the dialogue from time to time, which saves The Children’s Republic from being totally dark.

If you are looking for light and fluffy entertainment, this is definitely not it.  But if you want a piece of theatre that will challenge you and make you ponder the strength of the human spirit in times of unspeakable horror, then do not hesitate to pick up the phone and reserve your seats.

 

The Children’s Republic is on at the Belfry until October 8.  Box office: 250-385-6815.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future

Royal BC Museum dives into the world of orcas with upcoming feature exhibition

Frank Ludwig in a forklift with his long hair during Trooper’s heyday. (Photo submitted)
Humble Island beginnings blossomed into storied career for Trooper keyboardist

Frank Ludwig got his start as a boy pumping the organ in a tiny downtown Chemainus church

Joan Miller with the Vancouver Island North Regional Film Commission says there’s much room for optimism in the region rebounding from COVID-19 and is excited about what the future holds for the region. Black Press File Photo
North Island film industry optimistic about post-COVID rebound

Interest in filming here is still high, according to film commission, once things open back up

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, has been filming in Langford and Colwood over the past two weeks. On April 7, filming will take place on the east side of the Esquimalt Lagoon. (Black Press Media file)
Netflix series ‘Maid’ filming in Colwood

10-episode Warner Bros. production filmed exclusively in Greater Victoria

Victoria mural artists Joshua Lundrigan (from left) and Paul Archer join Rob Chyzowski, co-owner of Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner in front of an Archer-designed mural that went up on Thursday at the Inner Harbour restaurant. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Positivity rules with new outdoor mural from Victoria artist

Paul Archer teams with Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner for patio project

Thomas Kuecks, Bellamy Kuecks and Paula Foot have come together to create an album of stories for children. (Nina Foot photo)
Moments with Miss Paula creates musical stories for kids

Music and the spoken word from Island pair available on streaming

Author Eden Robinson poses for a portrait during an interview in Toronto, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Trickster trilogy author Eden Robinson hosts online conversation and reading

Haisla and Heiltsuk will join fans in event hosted by Vancouver Island Regional Library

Nanaimo author Lawrence Winkler’s latest book is ‘The Last Casebook of Doctor Sababa.’ (Bulletin file photo/supplied)
Nanaimo author wraps up trilogy following ‘antihero’ Island doctor

Lawrence Winkler presents ‘The Last Casebook of Doctor Sababa’

‘Frank Ney’ by Patrick Flavin, ‘Millstone River Upper Falls’ by John Collison Baker, ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’ by MA Molcan, ‘On the Other Side’ by Liana Ravensbergen, ‘December Snow’ by Laurel Karjala and ‘Jacks Point’ by Dana Smiley (cropped, clockwise from top-left) are among the works in the Nanaimo Arts Council’s latest exhibition. (Photos courtesy Nanaimo Arts Council)
Nanaimo Arts Council presents its first online gallery show

Submissions now open for upcoming ‘Ekphrastic Celebration’ show

Dorothy Sevcov’s exhibition ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ is on display at Art 10 Gallery until the end of the month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Experimental paintings now on exhibit at Nanaimo’s Art 10 Gallery

Dorothy Sevcov’s ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ on display through April

Courtenay artist Christine Boyer presents Alongside My Path: Native Wildflowers of Canada at Gallery Merrick from April 9 to 23. (Photo courtesy Christine Boyer)
Island painter shows off the wildflowers of Western Canada in first solo show

Courtenay’s Christine Boyer presents floral exhibit at Nanaimo’s Gallery Merrick

Nanaimo Harbourfront Library librarian April Ripley led the effort to create a Vancouver Island poetry booklet in recognition of National Poetry Month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Harbourfront Library publishes booklet for National Poetry Month

Collection features winners of ‘Poem in your Pocket’ contest

SENCOTEN language revitalizationist and filmmaker Renee Sampson’s short film, Bringing Our Language Back to LIfe, shows online during the Reel 2 Real International Youth Film Festival, April 14-23. (Photo courtesy Wapikoni)
SENCOTEN language featured in short film created on Saanich Peninsula

Renee Sampson film highlights importance of passing on traditional languages to youth

Most Read