Caging Skies

Caging Skies is a play that will resonate with many people, but especially resonated with me. It is set in Nazi occupied Vienna during and after WWII, and is based on the novel by Christine Leunens about a member of Hitler Youth who falls for a Jewish girl.

My father’s family was born in Vienna and were refugees from the Nazi regime I was intrigued but also nervous about seeing the play. he set is dominated by a huge portrait of Adolf Hitler, whom young Johannes worships, so is pretty confronting.

The play has four characters. Yohannes, who is a fanatical member of Hitler Youth. He is recovering at home from wounds from a bomb attack.

His mother Roswita and grandmother Oma live with him. His father is missing and his mother is no fan of the Nazis. His grandmother is a source of good advice and humour.

Yohannes discovers the Jewish Elsa hiding in their house. She was a friend of his dead sister. If he turns her in, his family would be executed so he puts his family ahead of his beliefs – for now.

The play is about the relationship that develops between Elsa and Johannes. This is no tale of flawed hero redeemed by a loving woman. Johannes remains an unsympathethic character throughout, even though he becomes two dimensional.

Caging Skies was very powerful and has a satisfying ending. If you can handle the setting, it is a good two hours of drama.

The biggest flaw was that the development of the relationship seemed rushed and artifical. One can’t really see why he starts to develop feelings for her other than he is a teenager and she is beautiful and why she has feelings for him is also unconvincing. I want to now go and buy the book so I can see the greater detail possible there.

Tim Earl was very convincing as Johannes. Claire Waldron excelled as Roswita, and there were also strong performances from Donna Akersten as Oma and Comfrey Sanders as Elsa. Roswita’s plot arc is very moving.

Desiree Gezentsvey has done a very good job with the production. There were many dramatic moments that kept the show at a good pace, and had the 110 minutes fly by. The parts of the play set after the war ended were especially good.

This was the first play at Circa I have managed since Benjamin was born. Was a very good one to start with.

Rating: ****

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