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

Blue Bridge Theatre
Stratford star teams up with Blue Bridge Theatre

A New Take on a Perennial Favourite

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on film production on central and north Vancouver Island, says Vancouver Island North Film Commission. Pictured here, production of TV series Resident Alien in Ladysmith earlier this year. (Black Press file)
Film commissioner says COVID-19 cost central Island $6 million in economic activity

Jurassic World: Dominion, Chesapeake Shores among productions halted due to pandemic, says INFilm

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Stephen Laidlaw, prepator with Nanaimo Art Gallery, hangs a photograph of Anna Wong, a B.C. print maker whose works are on display at the gallery. The exhibit opens Friday, Dec. 4, and runs until Feb. 7. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores life work of overlooked B.C. printmaker

‘Anna Wong: Traveller on Two Roads’ features more than 70 art works and personal belongings

Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus released their first joint album, <em>The Invasion</em>. (Photo courtesy Raymond Knight)
Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus release first joint album

Duo plan elaborate live-streamed CD release for ‘The Invasion’

Next month Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases his solo debut album, ‘Wildlife.’ (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases solo debut album

New record ‘Wildlife’ about taking chances and going through changes

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

Most Read