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Caging Skies Flies Over Ideologies & Feelings

Caging Skies flies over ideologies and feelings

A portrait of Adolf Hitler overhangs the stage, threatening. Beyond a simple bed, a curtain marked with signs, almost swastikas. The lighting, designed by director Andrew Foster, adds weight to the already oppressive stage atmosphere. Jeremy Cullen’s sounds and music immerse the audience in WWII Vienna, mixing whispers, violin, and bombings.

Caging Skies, adapted by the award-winning writer Desiree Gezentsvey (Nuclear Family) from Christine Leunens’ novel, directly relates Nazi ideology to the reality of everyday people and feelings. Protagonist Johannes (poignantly interpreted by Tim Earl) is a member of the Vienna Hitler Youth who discovers that his parents are hiding a Jewish woman named Elsa (a bright Comfrey Sanders) in their house. Torn between his growing feelings for her and his political faith in fascism, Johannes finds himself deeply conflicted about how best to reconcile this difficult dilemna.

Johannes’ mother Roswita (Claire Waldron) delivers an entirely credible performance in a complex role. As an active member of the Underground, she resists Nazi barbarism and tries to make her son appreciate the importance of human values over ideology. Whereas Roswita tries to reason with Johannes, his grandmother Oma (a melting Donna Akersten) accepts him for who he is - a young man, disturbed by his first romantic awakening - and adds some humour and lightness during the play’s more serious moments.

Whereas Caging Skies mainly addresses issues surrounding the Holocaust, violence, and war, Gezentsvey also deals with questions of education, emotions, and memory. She shows that war and violence not only occur in the streets, but often rage in the depths of our hearts as well.

The play is simultaneously both chilling and hopeful and thanks to convincing performances from the entire cast, and Sheila Horton’s authentic period costumes, it is only after the applause ends and the lights come up that we remember we’ve been watching a play, and not reality.

Caging Skies plays at Wellington's Circa Theatre until 9 September.

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