Saturday, July 13

Storm Lantern – Traverse Theatre

They say partnerships are never equal, and such was the case here tonight in this generally well-executed three-hander from Edinburgh youth theatre outfit, Strange Town.

This short play follows the true story of Sophia Scholl, the anti-nazi political activist, whose life was terminated prematurely, by guillotine, at the age of just 21, in 1943. Scholl was arrested with her brother Hans after scattering war protest leaflets from the top floor of the atrium of Munich University.

Writer Duncan Kidd focuses primarily on the friendship between Sophia and Gisela Schertling, her good friend of several years, who is also romantically involved with her brother Hans. The third character in the piece is Nazi Interrogator, Robert Mohr.

Let’s talk about the best bits first. Rebecca Forsyth is outstanding as Gisela Schertling as she wrestles on the horns of the ultimate dilemma; whether to save her own neck or send her friends and lover to the chopping block. Her emotional investment in the part is clear and can be traced back to 2022, when she first played Gisela for the world premiere of Storm Lantern.

Evie Mortimer’s Sophie is a complex character, sometimes playful and at others times deadly serious, but completely committed to the anti-war cause, which she sees as her life mission for the hearts and minds of the German people. Mortimer creates a fascinating and believable central character, and her interactions with Forsyth are credible.

©Andy Catlin

A particularly effective scene sees Gisela trying to persuade Sophie to send old clothes to the soldiers at the front, and Sophie in turn flatly refusing and trying to convince her friend that the nazis are systematically rounding up and killing disabled children. Gisela implores Sophie to ‘keep our heads down till it’s over’.

Not so effective, whilst correctly resisting the urge to don an German accent, Paul Beeson’s avuncular nazi interrogator, Robert Mohr, is altogether too headmasterly to feel true. Having said that, it is probably the script which is the real culprit here, and has him saying things like, ‘stop being silly’, sounding more Python than gestapo.

Despite some scripts questions, Director, Steve Small, keeps things moving along nicely, and shows some good ideas, with split scenes allowing all three actors to be present during interrogations, then alternating flash-back and present day scenes, always keeping it interesting and well paced. For a period piece like this, I would have liked to have seen more use of lighting effects and audio visual, video etc, but I guess the budget can only stretch so far. The use of audio clips from the period was certainly well done and created depth and texture.

An interesting piece of social history, written specifically for secondary schools, powerfully acted in places, which asks important questions about morality and personal sacrifice.

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 4th June 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.