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The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts&entertainment -

sions that si­mul­ta­ne­ously trans­mit light-hearted in­dif­fer­ence to the sol­diers, and ut­ter deso­la­tion to the au­di­ence.

But not for the first time Warner has tried to con­vince us that her long-time ac­tor/col­lab­o­ra­tor has the soul of rock star. Shaw en­ters the action atop Courage’s wagon like a mag­nif­i­cent Boadicea — which works very well — but then breaks into a strut with the first of her rock num­bers — which does not.

The mu­sic is pro­vided by the in­die/ folk group Duke Spe­cial and the Band who de­liver some beau­ti­fully poignant songs when they are not fronted by Shaw pre­tend­ing to be Rod Ste­wart.

In­evitably it is in the play’s wry ob­ser­va­tions about hu­man­ity where the play is at its most pow­er­ful. The ex­change be­tween Courage and the dot­ing army Chap­lin (Peter Gowan) if a fine ex­am­ple, re­veal­ing as it does that war is the in­evitable prod­uct of hu­man na­ture rather than a clash of ideals and causes.

There is peace enough even dur­ing war for the hu­man species to thrive, says the Chap­lin whose job is to per­suade sol­diers to go will­ingly to their deaths. “War sat­is­fies all needs,” he blithely de­clares. But by the time Courage has lost her chil­dren she is no longer thriv­ing, but barely sur­viv­ing in a pur­ga­tory of Beck­et­t­like bleak­ness.

Cottes­loe, Na­tional The­atre, Lon­don SE1

SIXTY years af­ter the 1,600 Jews of the Pol­ish town of Jed­wabne were mur­dered in July 1941, a new memo­rial was erected.

This one no longer pro­claimed the crime to be yet an­other Nazi atroc­ity. Re­cent ev­i­dence re­vealed that the mas­sacre in which most of the Jews were burned alive af­ter be­ing herded into a barn, was in fact the re­sult of a pogrom car­ried out by the vic­tims’ neigh­bours.

It is on this ver­sion of events, now largely ac­cepted in Poland, that Pol­ish play­wright Tadeusz Slo­bodzianek has based his mas­terly work. is pop­u­lated by a 10-strong group of 10 Jews and Catholics who we first see as chil­dren shar­ing a class­room. Later they be­come the adult vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors of the pogrom.

Slo­bodzianek — whose play is el­e­gantly trans­lated by Ryan Craig — stun­ningly com­bines tes­ti­mony with acted-out scenes. Each char­ac­ter de­liv­ers a ver­sion of events. Com­bined, they ar­rive at a greater truth.

An­glo-Ira­nian di­rec­tor Bi­jan Sheibani sets his beau­ti­fully per­formed pro­duc­tion within a sim­ple rec­tan­gle. And al­though Jed­wabne is never named, there can be no bet­ter memo­rial to the Jews who died there. ( Tel: 020 7452 3000)

Warner’s pro­duc­tion clev­erly re­flects a war’s mad cy­cle of bat­tle and calm. Mo­ments of ci­vil­ity are punc­tu­ated with the sud­den chaos and fear brought by the whooshes and ex­plo­sions of in­com­ing shells.

But while Brecht still has the power to grip and pro­voke, the play is no longer the rev­e­la­tory les­son it once was. Which is not to say that Mother Courage is not worth re­viv­ing and watch­ing.

I just won­der if an anti-war play with its generic les­son about the hellish­ness of con­flict will make a blind bit of dif­fer­ence to the way we think about the wars be­ing waged in our name now. ( Tel: 020 7452 3000)

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